The death of seven people after a head-on collision in South Taranaki has sent shockwaves through the small community.

An 8-year-old girl was the latest to die following yesterday's crash on State Highway 3.

Nivek Madams had just celebrated her eighth birthday the day before the tragedy that also claimed the lives of her baby sister and stepfather. Nivek was the back-seat passenger in a car that crashed head-on with another, killing all four elderly occupants near Waverley Racecourse yesterday.

Seven people died in the crash.

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The girls' mother, the sole survivor, was in a stable condition in intensive care at Wellington Hospital overnight.

Pātea fire brigade chief fire officer Grant Hurley said it was one of the worst crashes he had seen in his 30 years on the job.

When he and four other volunteer firefighters arrived at the scene two first responders from St John were there, and farmers were helping direct traffic.

"It was chaos, a bit of a mess. The two smashed cars were on the right-hand side of the road."

Hurley and the other volunteers had already been to a fatal crash on Monday.

"Eight deaths for the week. It is pretty hard on the guys.

"Everyone is a bit sad, but doing okay at the moment. We have peer-support there if we need it. We are just keeping an eye on each other, talking to each other, comforting each other.

"I rang around the guys last night to check in on them. This was just yesterday, so everyone is a bit hyped up, adrenaline running. [The impact] usually hits a couple of days later."

Nivek Madams, 8, was killed in the Waverley crash along with her stepfather and baby sister. Her mother Ani, left, survived.
Nivek Madams, 8, was killed in the Waverley crash along with her stepfather and baby sister. Her mother Ani, left, survived.

Hurley said it was not a particularly dangerous stretch of road.

"It has a slight bend, but the road conditions were perfect."

South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop told Newstalk ZB the crash was an "absolute tragedy".

"Our hearts go out to the families. And also to the volunteer people involved.

"This has real ramifications for our small community, it really will take quite a bit of getting over.

"Even the local farmers, community members there who got things sorted very quickly, but particularly the families. I have had messages from local people feeling very, very sad for those people.

"We started out a beautiful, sunny day. Who would have believed this would have happened?"

Our love and thoughts with the families connected to the Waverley crash. Especially holding Mum in our prayers x

Posted by Angel Casts on Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Pātea Community Board chairwoman Ruth Mackay said the deaths were going to be "extremely hard" for the community.

"It is an unbelievable tragedy. We just don't expect that in our quiet, little community."

She was sure every support possible was being put in place for the people involved.

"We are a very supportive community, and we will all be rallying around to do whatever we can."

At a meeting last night in Hawera they held a moment's silence.

"People were thinking about [the victims] there."

The New Zealand Initiative has said more safety measures, such as median barriers and rumble strips, should be used to tackle the country's devastating road toll.

Mackay said anything to try and avoid a crash was well worth doing.

Taranaki Rescue Helicopter crew member Sarah Sharp said yesterday's crash was the "worst scene" she had been to.

"It was a pretty challenging day for everyone, but it's why we do what we do. We are in this role to help when we can, and we did our best."

When the helicopter arrived other emergency services were on the scene and members of the public were helping where they could.

"It was an awesome effort by everybody."

After transferring the 8-year-old girl to Waikato Hospital they went straight to another crash in Huntly.

"It kept us on our toes, but we have got an awesome support network around us, checking up on us."