Three Northland men are lucky to be alive after a crash thought to have been caused by two utes simultaneously trying to overtake a row of traffic.
The smash occurred on State Highway 10, just north of Pakaraka, about 11.50am yesterday. One of the drivers flown to Whangārei Hospital by the Northland Rescue Helicopter.
The man was unresponsive at first and his condition deemed critical, but that was later revised to serious. His injuries were not life-threatening.
The other driver was trapped under his upside down ute and had to be freed by firefighters using hydraulic lifting gear. His injuries were minor and he was taken to Bay of Islands Hospital in Kawakawa.
His passenger also suffered only minor injuries.
The two vehicles ended up on opposite sides of the highway.
One, which was towing a trailer, demolished a barrier on the right-hand side of the road, dropped into a culvert and rolled end-over-end, coming to rest upside down in a ditch. The other ended up on its side in a paddock about 100m further south.
One dog on the back of one of the utes was killed and another was missing.
Sergeant Phil Le Comte, of Mid North police, said the occupants of the two vehicles, all Mid North men, were known to each other.
Both utes were heading south behind a slower vehicle, understood to be a gas tank truck, and another car when the rear ute had pulled out to pass the vehicles in front.
However, it appeared the ute in front also pulled out to overtake, and the two utes collided side-on.
The investigation was ongoing, he said.
No other vehicles were involved.
Le Comte urged drivers to be aware of what was around them at all times.
''Always check in your mirrors what's around you, in front of you and behind you. Especially when you're vacating a lane; it's paramount.''
Kerikeri and Kawakawa fire brigades responded, along with police, St John Ambulance, the rescue helicopter and the police Serious Crash Unit.
State Highway 10 was closed between Pakaraka and Puketona until about 2.30pm and traffic was diverted via Paihia and SH11.