A male motorbike rider died at the scene of a fiery fatal crash on an "unforgiving" stretch of the Napier-Taupo Rd, despite the heroic efforts of a truck driver burned trying to save him.

Police are currently investigating the fatal crash on State Highway 5 near Te Pohue at 6am today.

A second person on the motorbike had critical injuries and was transferred to Hawke's Bay Hospital by rescue helicopter.

Eastern District road policing manager Matt Broderick said there had been plenty of work done on the notorious road recently, but it remained a challenging drive where crashes were possible.

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Broderick said it was the first fatal crash on the road in about 18 months.

NZTA had done a lot of work making the road safer recently, with safety barriers especially for motorcyclists, but "it's still a challenging road that does not forgive mistakes".

"We've had quite a few vehicles run off that road and been lucky to survive it."

He encouraged people to drive to the conditions and the nature of the road.

The crash, which happened at the intersection of SH5 and Rukumoana Rd, near Te Pohue, was between a motorbike and a logging truck.

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The truck driver, a man in his 60s, received minor burns in his attempts to save the other victims, after the motorbike burst into flames.

A spokesperson for Hawke's Bay District Health Board said a woman was in a critical condition in Hawke's Bay Hospital on Friday evening.

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The truck driver was treated and later discharged.

The road was closed from the time of the crash until 1.30pm, over seven hours later.

Several travellers who were at the cordon said they were planning to wait until the road reopened, when Hawke's Bay Today spoke to them in the morning.

The majority of traffic coming from the Napier side was stopped at Eskdale and turned around, although officials did allow some traffic further down the road.

Police thanked the public for their patience.

Broderick urged people to drive safely over the Christmas period.

"Coming up to Christmas, it is a very dangerous time of year, because people who aren't normally travelling long distances do.

"They need to make sure they are driving to the conditions in a car which is well checked and ready to go, and they take their time with plenty of rest."