Kieran Carter heard a bang last night - and is today feeling "guilty" he didn't investigate it.
The 31-year-old self-employed electrician said he went to bed not realising the noise he heard was a car hitting a tree near his Pyes Pa Rd home.
"I heard the bang. I was just about to go to bed... I feel guilty eh mate. I could've possibly helped."
Carter said he had a first-aid certificate.
"I should've investigated, but I didn't."
He has lived there for about 18 years and was not aware of a crash at that site before although he did recall a truck once hitting the bank on the other side of the highway nearby.
"You see debris all over the place eh, down our driveway, down Williams Rd, and when it rains it's wicked slippery."
The crash was one of three around New Zealand involving people who were killed. It was also the second serious crash in the Western Bay of Plenty in less than 24 hours.
Another person died after a logging truck and car crashed in Waikato this morning.
Emergency services were still at State Highway 29 at Karapiro. The empty logging truck and a car collided about 4.50am, about 4km from the intersection with SH1.
Another driver was dead after their car left the road and crashed into a paddock in the Clutha District, police said.
According to the Ministry of Transport, the road toll stood at 363 at midnight last night.
Yesterday, SH2 at Apata Station Rd was closed after a serious crash near Katikati. Three people were taken to Tauranga Hospital serious in conditions.
The crash happened a day after a truck carrying LPG cylinders crashed into a ditch at the same spot.