Suspected drink-driving and no seat belts contributed to a devastating crash in Kawakawa that left two people critically injured.
A Toyota Land cruiser carrying four men and a woman in their late teens and early lost control on the gravel surface of McIntyre Rd before it went down a steep bank and crashed into a tree around midnight on Wednesday.
Kawakawa fire chief Wayne Martin said his crew and another from Paihia had to winch the ute out with the front seat male passenger still trapped. They then spent 40 minutes cutting him free.
"It was a really tricky extraction. We had the paramedics monitoring them right through the process as we were releasing the pressure."
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The man and a female passenger were airlifted separately to hospitals in Whangārei and Auckland with critical injuries.
Three other people inside the ute escaped the crash with minor injuries that did not require medical treatment.
Pig hunting dogs secured in the back of the tray were also unharmed.
Crash analyst Jeff Cramp, of the police Serious Crash Unit, said none of the occupants were wearing a seat belt and the investigation had indicated alcohol as a factor but results were still pending.
The group appeared to be driving along familiar back roads on a late night pig hunting mission.
The combination of been overly familiar with the roads, alcohol, and no restraints meant "bad things could happen", Cramp said.
"It's a tragedy that could've been prevented. Don't drink and drive, and always wear your seat belt."