A senior Western Bay of Plenty police officer has been seriously hurt in a horror smash north of Te Puke this morning and a motorcyclist has died following a crash at Mount Maunganui yesterday.
Te Puke police Senior Sergeant Deirdre Lack was rushed to Tauranga Hospital after a head-on collision on State Highway 2, about 1km from Manoeka Rd, about 4.45am.
In another crash, motorcyclist Justin David Lagas, 30, from Tauranga, died following a collision in Mount Maunganui yesterday.
Te Puke Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Glenn Williams said the two vehicles involved in this morning's crash finished up about 75m from each other.
It took at least 30 minutes before the drivers were freed and taken to hospital, because the vehicles were so badly damaged.
Mr Williams said all the firefighters knew Miss Lack.
Mr Williams said he spoke to Miss Lack in the vehicle a few times and when her partner arrived at the scene he was able to seat him in the back of her car to comfort her, along with paramedics.
"She was in a lot pain, she was aware because she asked if anyone had called her mother.
"(The crash was) probably one of the hardest for us because we wanted to get her out as quick as we could.
"We had to put someone with her to comfort her until the rescue truck got here from Tauranga."
The crash shut down State Highway 2 to traffic, which by 7.30am had backed up to Papamoa's Domain Rd.
A diversion through Te Puke Quarry Rd was put in place but only cars were allowed through here as the road was narrow and unsealed.
Trucks were left stranded until the road was cleared about 9am.
Miss Lack, 40, suffered serious injuries and was trapped in her vehicle for at least half an hour. It is believed she was travelling to the gym.
Meanwhile, acting Senior Sergeant Mark Holmes said it was too early to say whether any charges would be laid over yesterday's fatal motorcycle crash. He said the police serious crash unit attended and inquiries into the cause were continuing.
Mr Lagas was riding a Suzuki GSXR 400 when he collided with a Fulton Hogan truck about 4pm.
The collision occurred outside Ryan Engineering, on the Tauranga Airport side of Aerodrome Rd.
Ryan Engineering owner Paul Ryan was the first on the scene after the accident. He said the crash was horrific.
"It was instantaneous. He had no chance."
Mr Ryan stayed with the motorcyclist before St John arrived.
Acting Sergeant Andrew Crockett said the motorcyclist was travelling north on Aerodrome Rd. The truck driver had travelled in the opposite direction before turning into the parking area when the collision occurred.
Mr Crockett said the truck driver was not physically hurt but was "pretty shaken up".
The section of road, by Cherokee Place, was also blocked off to traffic.
A Tauranga Hospital spokesperson this morning said Miss Lack and the 19-year-old driver of the other car involved in the smash were both in the emergency department suffering from serious injuries. Miss Lack had multiple fractures to her limbs.
It is understood a rescue helicopter was initially called to take a patient to Waikato Hospital but fog in Hamilton meant this was not possible.
Miss Lack's Rotorua-based sister Tracey Lack confirmed to the Bay of Plenty Times that her sister was involved in the accident but remained optimistic she would make a good recovery. She said her parents had phoned her with the news.
She said her parents Robyn and Ron, also based in Rotorua, were this morning on their way to Tauranga.
Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson had heard about the crash on the radio but was shocked to learn Miss Lack had been involved.
"It's a tragic accident, especially at this time of year for Deirdre, right before Christmas. She is a person that Te Puke has a lot of respect for.
"She's done a lot of work with the local youth in Te Puke and other sections of the community."
Miss Lack, who previously worked in Rotorua, has been the officer in charge of Te Puke police for several years.
She spent five months last year heading the Mount Maunganui station.
Western Bay of Plenty police confirmed a female officer was involved in the crash but would not comment further this morning.
Melissa Hedley, who works at Oceanblue gym in Papamoa, said it was likely Miss Lack was on her way to the gym when the crash happened.
"She comes and trains here and swims in the pool.
"I imagine that's where she was heading - she's one of our 5 o'clockers.
"It's a bit of a shock - I'm sitting here waiting by the phone, waiting to hear [some news], and trying not to cry. I know she will be fine."
She described Miss Lack as "vibrant" and "active" and hoped her fitness would help with her recovery.