Two major characters were killed off hit local drama Shortland Street tonight, as the show returned with a highly anticipated hour-long premiere that promised to reveal who had survived last year's explosive finale.

The high-rating soap opera ended 2013 with psychopath doctor Josh Gallagher (Chris Tempest) setting a homemade bomb under the deck at the Warner family bach while a Christmas party was taking place.

After the explosion, the fate of numerous characters - including stalwarts Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) and Rachel McKenna (Angela Bloomfield) - remained unknown.

Producers on the show invited fans to speculate ahead of tonight's premiere, with a marketing campaign that drew attention to the mystery of who died.


Television commercials ran through a list of potential fatalities, while clues were released daily through social media sites.

Tonight's premiere picked up immediately after the explosion that rocked the Warner bach, with chaos taking over the Christmas party as rescue efforts began and writers scrambled to reveal the fate of the characters involved.

The first fatality turned out to be bomber Josh, who was crushed under a collapsed part of the building after helping to pull Roimata (Shavaughn Ruakere) free of the carnage. It was a surprising send-off for the character, whose "hero complex" had been the catalyst for the action in last year's finale.

Despite Josh martyring himself to save her, Roimata turned out to be the second fatality, succumbing to her injuries in surgery despite the best efforts of Boyd (Sam Bunkall). Fan favourite Shavaughn Ruakere leaves the show after a three year run that saw her nominated for Best Actress in last year's Best On The Box awards.

In the episode's other major storyline, Vasa Levi (Teuila Blakely) was found arrested for fraud and facing further charges, including the murder of Travis Corfield (John Tui), who was found dead in Vasa's parking garage from an apparent hit-and-run at the end of last year.

Shortland Street screens on TV2, weeknights at 7pm.