A man and a woman were airlifted to Dunedin Hospital tonight after two cars collided in the Kawarau Gorge about 5.30pm.

It appeared the woman, in her 50s, who was driving a car on State Highway 8 towards Cromwell, crossed the centre line and hit a Queenstown-bound vehicle driven by a man in his 30s, Sergeant Keith Newell of Queenstown Police said.

There were no passengers in either vehicle.

An initial assessment indicated a fire broke out in the engine of the man's car which was put out by passersby using a fire extinguisher.

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Both people appeared to be conscious when they were stretchered into separate helicopters.