Police have confirmed eight people have been killed and a boy critically injured following a head-on crash on State Highway 1 near Ohakuri Rd, Atiamuri, Taupo.

Two vehicles were involved the crash – an SUV and a van.

The driver of the SUV, and the driver and six passengers in the van were killed.

State Highway 1 has now reopened.

Advertisement

Greenlea Rescue Helicopter pilot Pete Masters earlier told the Herald he transported a 9-year-old boy from Tokoroa Hospital to Waikato Hospital in a critical condition.

Masters said eight people had died in the crash, which involved an SUV and a van.

The scene of a crash where eight people were killed this morning. Photo / Ben Fraser
The scene of a crash where eight people were killed this morning. Photo / Ben Fraser
The scene of the crash where eight people were killed. Photo/ Ben Fraser
The scene of the crash where eight people were killed. Photo/ Ben Fraser

The Disaster Victim Identification team (DVI) has been called in to assist with that process.

Bay of Plenty Road policing officer Inspector Brent Crowe told media at the scene that one of the cars had crossed the centre line, resulting in the crash.

He confirmed one person, a child, was taken to Waikato hospital in a serious to critical condition.

Crowe said to describe the scene as a complete tragedy would be an understatement.

#LIVE: Police are speaking to media regarding the fatal crash in Atiamuri near Taupo.

Posted by Rotorua Daily Post on Saturday, 27 April 2019

"Two vehicles, travelling on SH1 have come together, a head-on collision in wet conditions."

He said the police's main priority, for now, was to look after those who had died for the sake of their families.

Advertisement

"There will be also, obviously, a thorough investigation into why the crash has happened and that could take a considerable period of time."

When asked further about the causes, Crowe said: "It appears for whatever reason one of the vehicles has crossed to the incorrect side of the road on a moderate left-hand bend ... The road conditions were wet at the time."

He said it appeared only one person was in the southbound car and it was too early to say if seat belts were worn.

Police knew where the vehicles were registered, but would not confirm where those inside were from, he said.

The scene of a crash where police say several people were killed this morning. Photo / Ben Fraser
The scene of a crash where police say several people were killed this morning. Photo / Ben Fraser

Emergency services were called to the scene at 10.30am today.

St John sent five ambulances to the crash.

The road will be closed for an extended period, so traffic will be diverted and there will be lengthy delays, police say.

The serious crash unit arrived about noon, with light rain continuing to fall.

Low cloud and rain near the crash scene at Ohakuri. Photo / Leah Tebbutt
Low cloud and rain near the crash scene at Ohakuri. Photo / Leah Tebbutt

Motorists are asked to plan their journey to avoid SH1 between Taupo and Atiamuri if at all possible.

The crash scene is on SH1 about 200m north of the intersection with Ohakuri Rd.

Fire crews cordoned off the scene from Ohakuri Rd intersection and SH1.

A reporter at the scene said it was very quiet in the area and rain was starting to set in. She said two cars appeared to be close together in the north-bound lane. A booster seat could be seen near one of the cars.

The scene is just a 10-minute drive from the stretch of Tirohanga Rd where five members of the same family died four weeks ago when their vehicle came off the road in the early hours of the morning on April 1.

Those who died in that crash were Peter Senior Rangikataua, 44, from Rotorua, his nephew Rangi Rangikataua, 26, from Mokai and Peter's three daughters Michelle Morgan-Rangikataua, 15, Aroha Morgan-Rangikataua, 14, and Kahukura Morgan-Rangikataua, 12.

Michelle and Aroha were students at Rotorua Lakes High School and Kahukura was a pupil at Rotorua Intermediate.

Just days before, on April 29, Taupō man Dwayne Adam John Marker, 37, died in a two-truck crash outside the Bull Ring cafe on State Highway 1, just a five-minute drive north of this morning's fatal crash scene.

Rotorua resident, Fiona Mead, is driven by her son along SH 1 in Atiamuri once every few weeks when she looks after her grandchildren.

She told the Rotorua Daily Post it was a "bad stretch of road".

"I trust the drivers I go with, but some of the corners are blind."

She said right-hand turns were particularly treacherous.

"You have to be quick because the cars come quickly."

Fellow local, Shontel Van Zyderveld, said she used to use the highway "all the time".

"But since these accidents, I haven't used it once. There has just been so much tragedy on that highway, I'm really not willing to use it at the moment."

A man, who only wanted to be known as Justin, lived in Atiamuri for 20 years before moving away 15 years ago.

"I can never recall so many fatal accidents happening in such a short space of time in that area (South Waikato, Atiamuri, Tokoroa)," he said.

"There have been so many bad crashes south of Rotorua lately. I don't know what the answer is but it's got to stop. The poor families."

He said in his opinion, the road conditions were not as much as a problem as the widespread use of cell phones by drivers nowadays.

Janette Schrader heard about the crash on the radio about midday and immediately called her family members travelling from Te Awamutu to Taupō with six children.

She was relieved to find out they had been turned around at the Atiamuri petrol station, but she said the loss of life was heartbreaking.

"My condolences go out to those families."

Before today, 33 people had been killed on New Zealand's roads in the past month.

Two people died on New Zealand roads during Anzac Day after a crash in south of Cambridge.

Separately, a woman who was critically injured in a serious crash near Waipawa in Hawke's Bay on Monday died.

As of April 25, the Ministry of Transport was reporting 125 people had died on New Zealand's roads since the start of the year.

At the same time last year there had been 127 road deaths.