The Murupara community is reeling in the wake of a fatal crash on a remote forestry road that claimed four lives and critically injured another person yesterday.
Speaking close to the scene, Bay of Plenty roading police manager Inspector Brent Crowe confirmed there were no children involved in the crash, which happened at 6.35am between a car and truck at the intersection of Bonisch and Parapara Rds.
He believed the four who died were forestry workers.
Murupara's Pem Bird confirmed the four "beautiful young lives" were taken from the town.
"It's a great feeling of devastation and shock. It is beyond terrible to have them gone in such a way.
"These four beautiful young lives were happy on their way to work, but they didn't make it."
He said the community was now getting ready mentally, physically and spiritually for the bodies to be released. They will then lay at their respective marae.
"My heart sunk when I saw the police coming into town because you know something awful has happened when you hear the siren.
"It's time to console the immediate whānau and do what we can."
Timberlands chief executive Robert Green said his company was co-operating with police.
"We can confirm that the people involved work for a contractor to Timberlands as valued members of our wider forestry team.
"Like everyone else in the area, we are shocked and saddened by what has happened. We pass on our condolences to the families, whānau and everyone affected by this.
"We are ready to provide assistance to whānau and families, but the police have asked that we not approach anyone until they have completed their own process for notifying next of kin."
Taupō mayor David Trewavas said he was not sure what words to use for such a tragic event.
"My heart really goes out for the people involved. This is not good news for the forestry industry which is a major part of our region."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said it was tragic for everybody involved and impacted.
"There are families whose loved ones are not coming home and that is an absolute tragedy. Our aroha and sympathies are with all the families involved at this time."
She said as a community, the wider Rotorua district was still reeling from the horrific accident that killed three roadside workers in February.
"It's extremely sad to hear about people going to do their jobs and being struck by devastating accidents like this."
It is understood that while the road is a private operational road through the forest used by vehicles, such as four-trailer-long trucks, not fit for public roads, it did see traffic from other road users.
The Serious Crash Unit spent most of the day on site as police tried to piece together what had happened.
Conditions at the time of the crash were reasonably dark, Crowe said.
The road, which is tar sealed, is part of the Million Dollar Highway and Crowe said drivers had to know what they were doing to drive parts of it.
A karakia was said over the scene about mid-morning yesterday.
At 11.30am two hearses arrived at the scene shortly after a woman left the cordon visibly distressed.
A St John communications spokeswoman confirmed one person was flown to Waikāto Hospital in a critical condition.
As of yesterday, the road toll stood at 210 deaths, 49 of those in the Bay of Plenty police district.
A Ministry of Transport spokesman said they were in the process of adjusting those figures as a result of yesterday's horrific crash.
The number of deaths on New Zealand roads the same time last year was slightly higher, with 219 road deaths confirmed between January 1 to July 28, 2018.
Last year's total road toll was the highest since 2009, with a total of 381 people killed on our roads. In 2009, the annual road toll recorded was 384.
- Additional reporting by Zoe Hunter