A rahui has been put in place at Ninety Mile Beach after a car crash claimed one person's life and left two others with life-threatening injuries.

Police have confirmed the vehicle involved flipped, at the 88km long beach, which is officially a highway, meaning vehicles are allowed to drive on the sand.

A 43-year-old man died at the scene - near Waipapkauri boat ramp - and a man and woman both aged 24 were critically hurt, police said in a statement. A 21-year-old woman who was also in the car had minor injuries.

Debbie Cameron, who owns the nearby Ninety Mile Beach Holiday Park, was at home at with her family when the crash happened at 9.40pm on Friday and said she saw ambulances go past her house.


Her husband and 15-year-old daughter went to see what had happened and encountered a horrible scene, Cameron told the Herald on Sunday.

"They said there were bodies lying everywhere."

Two cars were on the beach, she said.

It was understood the man who was killed and the two people who were seriously injured weren't wearing seatbelts, but the woman who had minor injuries had been.

The popular holiday spot was sombre on Saturday, she said.

Local kaumata had placed a rahui on the beach between Lone Pine and the first stream and signs had been erected to warn people not to fish there.