An 18-year-old driver who had "fishtailed" down a Wairarapa road and hit a power pole did not know his mate was dead in the seat beside him.
The driver and his 17-year-old passenger were in a car that crashed on Kahutara Rd some time between Wednesday night and early yesterday morning.
When emergency crews arrived the trapped driver wanted to know how his friend was, but firefighters spared him the news as they cut him out of the wreckage.
Both of the teens were students at agricultural training centre Taratahi, said Natalie Bowie, the centre's Education Relationships Manager.
They were living off campus and were just starting their first jobs, she said.
She said Taratahi staff and students were devastated by the death of the teen and had been in contact with the driver.
A woman driving along the road around 3am alerted emergency services, which arrived to find the car crushed against the pole with the dead teenager and the driver inside.
The woman, believed to be a local, stayed at the scene, visibly upset, said Featherston Fire Chief Colin McKenna, who was one of the first to respond to the call.
He said the driver was conscious and appeared lucid.
A Life Flight Trust Westpac rescue helicopter arrived shortly after emergency crews had freed the youths and flew the driver to Wellington Hospital.
He was reported to be in a stable condition.
A serious crash unit investigation by police has indicated speed and alcohol were factors.
Wairarapa Sergeant Chris Megaw said it was a case of "young people doing what young people do".
Mr McKenna said road conditions weren't icy when he arrived and both youths were wearing seatbelts. He wasn't sure when the crash happened or how long they had been there before being discovered.
Kahutara Rd was cordoned off and traffic travelling south was diverted down Pukio West Rd while the serious crash unit investigated.
Powerco and Towing Wairarapa removed the car and police left the scene at noon.
Maori elders blessed the scene where the body of the 17-year-old crash victim lay covered on the road.
Constable Raewyn Joblin, Masterton police Maori liaison officer, and Wairarapa kaumatua Mike Kawana performed a karakia, or prayer, before the youth's body was taken from the site at about 10am.
At the time of press, names of the driver and passenger had not been released as police were still notifying family members overseas.