A young driver who died in a head-on collision with a truck was swerving to avoid a portable toilet which fell from another passing truck and trailer.
Nathan Luc Alain Boucher, 23, died at the scene of the crash, on State Highway 2 near Omokora Rd, Whakamarama, about 5.30pm yesterday.
The French national had been living in New Zealand since late last year, police said.
Mr Boucher was driving a car on SH2 when a large object fell in front of him from a truck passing in the opposite direction, Senior Sergeant Ian Campion, officer in charge of road policing in the western Bay of Plenty, said.
He took evasive action, and swerved to avoid the object, which NZME. News Service understands to have been a portable toilet.
He then lost control of the vehicle and "shot across the road" into the path of an oncoming truck and trailer unit.
The collision caused the truck and trailer unit, believed to be carrying wood chips, to roll onto its side and into a ditch off the north-bound lane of the highway. The truck driver was shaken but not injured, police said.
Mr Boucher died at the scene.
The driver of the truck from which the object fell pulled over to recover the item, Mr Campion said. He has since been spoken to by the crash investigation team.
Mr Campion would not be drawn on what the object was, saying details of the item would not be released until a later date. It was described as a large object, but Mr Campion declined to provide details of its exact size or weight.
However, it is understood to have been a portable toilet.
Mr Campion also would not say whether charges might be laid against the truck driver as a result of the falling object, saying it was too early in the investigation.
"Obviously there are laws around securing loads, but until we have got all the evidence to confirm what's actually happened, it's no good me speculating," he said.
An investigation by the police serious crash unit was still in the early stages, but was continuing, he said.
The crash caused long traffic delays as a section of SH2 was closed for several hours. Traffic was backed up and slow moving for about an hour after the crash, with northbound motorists diverted around the crash scene, via Youngson Rd.
A crane was called to the scene to lift the truck, and a scene investigation was also carried out.
Firefighters from Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Katikati were called to the crash, as well as a number of St John Ambulance staff.