The man and woman who died in a single-car crash near Macraes, 35km inland from Palmerston, were known to some of those who first arrived at the scene of the crash late on Saturday night.
Sergeant Tony Woodbridge, of Oamaru, said a 28-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman, both of Palmerston, died at the scene after the car they were in left the road and careered down a steep bank into a deep ravine.
Police and ambulance were alerted about 11.50pm on Saturday to the crash in Macraes Rd near Ritchie Rd, in the Waitaki district.
The small Honda Civic-type vehicle, which had four occupants, rolled, left the road and careered down a steep bank into a ravine before it came to rest 60m to 80m off the road, Woodbridge said.
The car's two other occupants — an 18-year-old woman and a 19-year-old woman, both also of Palmerston — survived the crash.
The women were airlifted to Dunedin Hospital by helicopter.
The survivors were initially feared to have suffered serious injuries, but Sgt Woodbridge said he understood both were released from hospital yesterday.
Police were speaking with the victims' family members yesterday.
"They are, understandably, grief-stricken," Woodbridge said.
"But a crash like this really affects all who attended it, as well as that community.
"That small community of Palmerston is going to be hugely affected by it.
"It's a big family in that community and our thoughts and prayers are with them.
"Police, ambulance, fire, all the first attenders, they really find it hard to deal with something like this — they know the people involved, because they are part of the community.
"It's pretty tough."
Serious crash investigators, scene-of-crime officers, police photographers and members of the criminal investigation branch all attended the crash yesterday.
The cause of the crash was yet to be determined.
The country road the crash occurred on was "used a lot" due to its proximity to Oceana Gold's Macraes gold mine.
While the crash occurred near the mine, it was not related to the mine nor did it involve the mine's staff, Woodbridge said.
However, staff in the area assisted police and were "very co-operative" with police when police duties interrupted their work schedules, he said.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher praised the emergency services, including volunteers, who responded at the weekend.
Kircher said there would be "very distraught" families in the area who had suffered "too many tragic deaths".
"Certainly our hearts go out for all involved in this particular one," Kircher said.
"Communities like Palmerston rely on local volunteers to man emergency services and you inevitably have a lot of strong connections between the community and those services ... and some to the extent that you are going to have family members that are on the response units that might be involved — that's never easy for small communities."
The two deaths brought Saturday's road toll to five.
Another person was killed in a single-vehicle crash that happened about 6pm in Clover Park, Counties-Manukau.
Earlier on Saturday, Pukepoto Rd, in Kaitaia, was temporarily closed, after a car crash just after 3am killed one woman and left two others in hospital.
One person died after a crash involving a pedestrian and a vehicle on the Shenandoah Highway, in Tasman, early on Saturday.