An elderly couple who died after they were hit by a car while crossing a Taranaki highway yesterday have been named by police.

They were Joan, 78, and Robert Murch, 83, of New Plymouth.

St John Central Region district operations manager Ian May said the couple were hit at 2pm yesterday while crossing State Highway 3 near Tongaporutu, a settlement north of New Plymouth.

A passing emergency department doctor was almost immediately on scene and the Taranaki Community Rescue Helicopter attended with two St John intensive care paramedics, however Mr and Mrs Murch died at the scene.

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Central police communications Shift Inspector Mike Coleman said a 19-year-old German tourist who hit the couple had been assisting police with their enquiries.

Police had yet to decide whether any charges would be laid over the tragedy.