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A teenager killed in a head-on crash in Taranaki on Saturday night had a beer can in his hand when rescue workers found his body in the mangled wreckage, say police.

The 17-year-old's death was one of three reported on the country's roads over the weekend, two of which were in Taranaki.

Hamish Ray Bourke, 17, of Hawera, was killed in a head-on collision with a milk tanker on State Highway 3 south of Hawera about 9.30pm on Saturday night.

Police said the Nissan stationwagon he was driving veered on to the wrong side of the road colliding with the Fonterra tanker.

Senior Constable Mark Brown told the Taranaki Daily News that when the car was removed from under the tanker, Mr Bourke, the driver and sole occupant, was dead and still holding a can of beer.

The 55-year-old tanker driver suffered moderate injuries and was last night in a stable condition in Taranaki Base Hospital.

Early on Saturday morning, Phillip Leslie Kilpatrick, 28, died after his car plunged 15m into a river near Okato, 28km southwest of New Plymouth.

Again, Mr Kilpatrick, of Opunake, 43km west of New Plymouth, was the sole occupant of the car and was already dead when emergency services arrived to find him trapped in the vehicle.

Okato Constable Richard Corry said another driver heading towards Okato saw the car career into the river.

It went off the road through a wooden barrier, missing the Stony River Bridge and came to rest upside-down on the opposite side of the river.

Mr Corry said Mr Kilpatrick would have been killed on impact.

It appeared alcohol was not involved but fatigue might have been a factor, he said.

The third weekend fatality was a motorcyclist who failed to negotiate a turn in the Waimana Gorge, in eastern Bay of Plenty, and collided with a light truck yesterday.

Sergeant Ray Wylie said the accident occurred about 12.15pm on State Highway 2.

The motorcycle rider, who has not yet been named, lost control and crossed the centre line into the path of the oncoming truck and died on impact.