A resident has described the moment she witnessed the crash which killed two people and injured three others in Pongakawa this morning.
Police were called to the scene of a crash between a car and a train at 8.15am on Pongakawa School Rd.
Shanelle Whitaker, who lives opposite the crash scene, said she heard a crushing sound which made her look up from inside her house.
"I saw the car flying off the tracks, and a jersey flew out, and then a pole of the train track lights fell down."
Whitaker said it was a horrific thing to witness, even not knowing at the time the extent of the damage, it was a "tragedy".
Living opposite the train tracks Whitaker said she had seen people taking risks at this rail crossing several times before, including trying to beat the train and doing "silly things".
"Obviously, the train and lights were there to be seen and it appeared the car has come over the train tracks and drove in front of the train."
But she said no matter what caused the crash it was an "absolute tragedy".
Police confirmed two people had died and three others were seriously injured.
No children were involved in the collision.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board spokesman confirmed it was treating two of the three injured in the crash.
A 29-year-old, male, from Tauranga is in a critical condition and a 27-year-old male, also from Tauranga, is in a serious condition.
It is understood the third patient was flown to Waikato Hospital by helicopter.
The Waikato District Health Board have confirmed this male patient is critical.
Police said the Serious Crash Unit would examine the scene and an investigation into the circumstances of the crash was under way.
Diversions were still in place at Pongakawa Station Rd through to Old Coach Rd and motorists were asked to avoid the area.
KiwiRail has confirmed its freight train was involved in the crash.
KiwiRail group chief executive Greg Miller said it was unfortunate to hear of the fatalities involved in the crash.
"This is a tragic incident. Our thoughts are with all those involved and their families."
He said KiwiRail staff were on the scene to assist police and emergency services.
The train was travelling from Mount Maunganui to Kawerau.
"The crossing has lights and bells... the line will remain closed until clearance is received from the police," Miller said.
Rail safety not for profit organisation Tracksafe New Zealand Foundation manager Megan Drayton said it extends its deepest sympathy to everyone affected by the tragic vehicle and train collision.
"It goes without saying that this incident is an absolute tragedy for all concerned - the victims, their friends and families, witnesses, emergency services personnel and the locomotive engineer [train driver] and other rail staff affected.
"It is a tragic reminder of the need for all motorists and pedestrians to take extreme care at all times around our rail network.
"Trains are heavy, they are often travelling faster than they appear and they cannot stop in a hurry."