A Downer Group spokeswoman has confirmed a member of their Tauranga team was in the small truck which crashed into a canal near Tauranga yesterday.

Emergency services worked past sunset to recover the body after being called to the Ruahihi Canal off McLaren Falls Rd in Omanawa about 1.20pm yesterday after reports of a vehicle going into the water.

"This is a tragic event and we are working with the family and the local team to support them through this challenging time," the Downer spokeswoman said.

"This does still remain a New Zealand Police investigation and we are assisting both police and WorkSafe," she said.

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Yesterday, Sergeant Wayne Hunter of the Western Bay of Plenty road police confirmed one person had died. He said their next of kin had been advised.

Scene of the crash this morning. Photo / George Novak
Scene of the crash this morning. Photo / George Novak

Police would wait until morning to retrieve the truck, a Downer vehicle.

A Downer spokesperson confirmed earlier in the afternoon the company was aware of the
serious vehicle incident.

"We are deeply concerned for the welfare of those involved in the incident and our focus is on the wellbeing of our people."

Flowers near the scene of the crash this morning. Photo / George Novak
Flowers near the scene of the crash this morning. Photo / George Novak

The retrieval operation took about three hours as the vehicle was completely submerged in the canal.

Police had to wait for the water level to be lowered before they could confirm whether anyone was inside and decide what to do next.

The water level went down at a rate of around 100mm per 15 minutes.

Just after 4.30pm, a Fire and Emergency New Zealand incident support truck arrived on the scene, just as the exhaust on the vehicle was revealed.

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The truck was right side up.

Shortly after, a Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service vehicle arrived with an inflatable rescue boat (IRB).

Tyre tracks in the grass leading into the canal indicated the vehicle had come down a hill from McLaren Falls Rd.

Police used a boat to access the truck when the water level had been lowered. Photo / George Novak
Police used a boat to access the truck when the water level had been lowered. Photo / George Novak

Three fences on the hill between the road and the canal were knocked flat.

Several police cars were at the scene, accessing the water via a private driveway that was closed to the public.

A man who lived near the canal said he did not see anything, but he believed his dog's attention pricked when the accident occurred. This was somewhere between 1.10pm and 1.20pm.

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He said he initially thought the noise was a "truck rumbling past", but he put it down to the wind.

Police used an IRB in the operation to retrieve the body from the truck. Photo / File
Police used an IRB in the operation to retrieve the body from the truck. Photo / File

A man who works near the Ruahihi Power Station told the Bay of Plenty Times at about 1.30pm he heard sirens racing past him, up the hill towards McLaren Falls Rd.

Police can be seen near the water's edge. Photo / George Novak
Police can be seen near the water's edge. Photo / George Novak

The man believed there were multiple police cars, two ambulances and a fire truck heading to the scene.

Another worker near the incident said it was uncommon for accidents to happen in the area.

An employee of the Caltex petrol Station in Tauriko said she saw emergency services drive past, but traffic was flowing in both directions.

The crash is the second this month in the Bay of Plenty where a vehicle plunged into water.

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On July 12, a car left State Highway 30, east of Rotorua, and crashed into Lake Rotoma.

A car is pulled from Lake Rotoma, near Rotorua, on July 13. Photo / File
A car is pulled from Lake Rotoma, near Rotorua, on July 13. Photo / File

Police divers retrieved the bodies of 54-year-old David Alexander Fawcett Jarden and 53-year-old Bibi Ali, both of Auckland, the following day as their silver, four-door vehicle was removed from the lake.

In April 2019, a vehicle crashed off Maungatapu Bridge and into the Tauranga Harbour on State Highway 29A.

The vehicle, with the body of 51-year-old Stephen Allan Fifield inside, was recovered from the water the following day.

Police divers emerge from Lake Rotoma after a car crashed into the lake earlier this month. Photo / File
Police divers emerge from Lake Rotoma after a car crashed into the lake earlier this month. Photo / File