Volunteer firefighters who responded to yesterday's horror State Highway 2 crash between Tauranga and Whakatāne are to receive counselling to help deal with the trauma of the tragedy.

Three road workers were killed and two injured in the crash, which involved four trucks near Pikowai about 1.50pm. Three of the trucks were engaged in road maintenance at the time. The fourth was travelling east towards Matatā.

Witnesses said the three workers were run into by a truck while they worked to clear a culvert at the side of the road. The highway was closed for several hours, reopening just before 11pm.

Bay of Plenty road policing manager Brent Crowe said police were appealing for more information from anyone who used this stretch of SH2 between 1.30pm and 1.50pm yesterday.


Crowe said there were "a number of investigations" underway, including one by the Serious Crash Unit to determine the cause of the crash.

Matatā fire chief Gavin Dennis said the crash was one of the worst his crew has had to deal with in his 32 years in the brigade.

The trauma of the tragedy had impacted not just the workers, survivors, and witnesses but also emergency service staff called to the incident, Dennis said.

"We are arranging counselling for all of our members," he said.

"We haven't had anything that tragic for a while but they, crashes, they're all traumatic. Every time we are called to a car or motor vehicle-related death or serious injury, it is always traumatic. But that ... we haven't had anything that tragic for a while."

Allan Dawson, managing director of Aongatete Coolstores, where five workers were killed in a 2016 SH2 crash, said accidents such as this "bring it all back".

Dawson said hearing the news of a multiple-fatality was poignant and a reminder for all his staff.

"You relive it."


A lot of the Tongan staff were getting ready for packing season now and many frequently visited the memorial at the packhouse for the five workers who lost their lives, he said.

A large portion of the Tongan staff and new ones coming over are friends or relatives of those who were tragically killed in 2016.