As the Australian families of those killed or injured in a horrific car crash near Reporoa on Friday arrive in New Zealand, a school community is in shock.
Queensland's Noosa Pengari Steiner School teacher, 36-year-old Andre Vogel, and student, 16-year-old Gabriel Runge, were killed when the van Mr Vogel was driving crashed into a milk tanker on State Highway 5 near Reporoa about 4.30pm on Friday.
Six other students, and teacher Tricia Jeffree, were injured. One of the students, a 16-year-old boy, remains in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital.
The others, including the tanker driver, were discharged from Rotorua Hospital on Saturday.
A police spokeswoman said it appeared the van carrying the school group had crossed the centre line and collided with the milk tanker.
"The reason it crossed the centreline is still to be established through the investigation," she said.
Parents of the teens involved were catching flights to New Zealand yesterday as the loss began to sink in for the school community.
Noosa Pengari Steiner School principal Allen Kloeden said a team of staff members at the school was offering counselling, support and care for everyone involved.
The staff and students were in New Zealand on a hiking trip. They had just completed the Tongariro Crossing and were on their way back to Rotorua when the accident happened.
Mr Vogel was the father of two young girls.
Reporoa woman Mary-Ellen Bell raced to the scene after hearing "an awful thud" outside her house.
"The front [of the van] was gone and you could see it was just chocka full of people."
Other motorists on the busy highway were at the scene and she could see two people had died on impact.
"The driver was still in the van and they covered him with a blanket. I looked down and I saw [Runge] covered up too."
- Cherie Howie and NZME.