Noosa school in shock after two die in horror crash on North Island highway.
One was a young man with his life ahead of him, the other a dad who shared his joy in nature and adventure with his two little girls.
They left their homes in one of Queensland's most popular beach communities to tackle the New Zealand wilderness with seven fellow staff and students of Noosa Pengari Steiner School.
For five days, 16-year-old Gabriel Runge and 36-year-old Andre Vogel did just that. The Tongariro Crossing was planned for Friday. It was their last adventure.
Just hours after finishing the crossing, Runge and Vogel were dead - their lives taken in a horror crash on a narrow central North Island highway.
Six other students, and teacher Tricia Jeffree, were injured when the hire van Vogel was driving collided with a Fonterra milk tanker on State Highway 5 near Reporoa just after 4.30pm.
Last night a 16-year-old boy remained in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital but the others, including the tanker driver, had been discharged.
A police spokeswoman said it appeared the van carrying the school group had crossed the centreline and collided with the milk tanker.
"The reason it crossed the centreline is still to be established through the investigation," she said.
As parents of the teens involved scrambled to catch flights to New Zealand, the loss was beginning to sink in for the school community.
Noosa Pengari Steiner School principal Allen Kloeden said the school was offering counselling, support and care for everyone involved.
"It is with deep regret and sadness that I advise of the loss of two of our community," he said. "A team of staff members have been activating support, gathering information, counselling and care for everyone involved."
Melissa Bland, a relief teacher at the school, knew Runge, his parents and his older brother well.
"I've known him since he was a little tot ... he was a beautiful, beautiful boy. He was just lots of good fun."
A parent with children at the school, Karen Callihoo, said the community was devastated.
"They're going to be missed greatly, it's just tragic."
Vogel was an adventure-loving teacher and had a website set up called NPSS Outdoors which discussed outdoor education.
He had also taken part in charity cycle expeditions to support environmental causes, and took on the Patagonian Expedition Race in 2011.
His team did not finish the race, which has a 600 to 900 kilometre course that crosses mountains and waterways, but he spoke glowingly online of the experience.
"It's the best race I've ever seen, the toughest race I've ever seen. The last wild race. I'll be back."
Those first on the scene of the crash were also yesterday coming to terms with what they had seen.
Reporoa grandmother Mary-Ellen Bell, 68, 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 flooded 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."
Shocked survivors were helped to the verge.
"A young blonde woman ... was just kind of looking towards the van. She was just stunned."