Two people were critically injured when a van full of Taiwanese tourists and a another carrying a shearing gang collided in King Country this afternoon.

The head-on crash, which involved 18 people, occurred on River Rd in Tokirima, west of Taumarunui, about 3pm.

An ambulance spokesman said two people were critically injured in the crash, one with abdominal injuries and the other with head and leg injuries.

Both were taken to Waikato Hospital by the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter.


A police spokesman said 11 people were injured in total.

Taumarunui Fire Station chief Barry Fisher said there were "bodies everywhere'' when they arrived at the isolated scene.

"It was out in the country and not much radio contact.''

A nearby farmer had notified authorities and used a crowbar to free one person who was trapped before emergency services arrived.

Mr Fisher said one of the vans appeared to have driven onto the wrong side of the road. The shearing van had been carrying a trailer which had jack-knifed.

Senior Sergeant Grant Alabaster said there were eight tourists in one van and 10 local workers in the other.

Preliminary findings showed one van had been on the wrong side of the road going around a corner.

Alcohol was not thought to have been a factor.


Taupo Greenlea Rescue Helicopter also attended.