The chief executive of a company that lost three workers in a horrific crash on Tuesday has described the incident as his "worst nightmare".

Rotorua's Haki Hiha, David Eparaima and Dudley Soul Raroa were working for Higgins when they died in a crash involving four trucks at their work site on State Highway 2 at Pikowai in the eastern Bay of Plenty.

Peter Reidy, chief executive of Fletcher Construction, which Higgins is part of, said the loss of three men was felt throughout the New Zealand construction industry.

"As a leader, it was my worst nightmare."

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The three had been part of a team carrying out the "normal, simple" job of clearing the roadside culvert.

Peter Reidy, chief executive of Fletcher Construction, said the loss of three colleagues was his 'worst nightmare' as a leader. File photo / Jason Oxenham
Peter Reidy, chief executive of Fletcher Construction, said the loss of three colleagues was his 'worst nightmare' as a leader. File photo / Jason Oxenham

He said "standard traffic management" was in place around the work site, but would not be drawn on exactly what measures and signage were in use.

The NZ Transport Agency and police also would not comment on those specifics due to ongoing investigations.

Reidy said the company took safety seriously but road workers would "always be vulnerable to live traffic".

The company had stopped its jobs and was doing all it could to support its staff, including offering counselling, as well as to staff of two other subcontracted companies and the victims' families.

His message to drivers was: "If you are going through work sites and roadworks, please, slow down and be very careful."

A Higgins truck is lifted by crane at the crash scene on Tuesday. Photo / George Novak
A Higgins truck is lifted by crane at the crash scene on Tuesday. Photo / George Novak

An official with a union that counted two of the men, Raroa and Eparaima, as former members echoed the message.

Roading and Infrastructure Union AWUNZ Inc Bay of Plenty representative Charles Te Kowhai encouraged drivers to be patient with roadworks as workers were just doing their jobs, often in tough conditions.

"Even with all the safety measures required of them in place, there is still always that chance of a freak accident."

The Rotorua Lakes Council held a moment's silence to honour the three men who died at a meeting yesterday. Two used to work for the council's infrastructure arm.

Tangi information.
Tangi information.

Support and counselling are being provided to the Higgins Bay of Plenty team, following the tragic death of three co-workers in a traffic accident on Tuesday.

Parent company Fletcher Building chief executive Ross Taylor said team-mates have been heavily impacted by the loss of the three men.

The company had done everything it could to support the loved ones of the deceased, he said.

Taylor said Fletcher Construction chief executive Peter Reidy and Higgins general manager Ken Lotu-Iiga travelled to Rotorua on the night of the accident to provide on-the-ground support for "our Higgins' people and the men's families".

Tragic crash: What we know

In the days since the crash, there has been speculation about the cause. Neither the police investigators nor the NZ Transport Agency will comment on the cause while the Special Crash Unit investigation continues. This is what has been confirmed.

- When: Tuesday between 1.30 and 1.50pm
- Where: State Highway 2, Pikowai, (aka the Matatā Straights)
- Higgins workers and contractors were clearing a culvert alongside the highway
- Higgins was engaged by the NZ Transport Agency
- There were four trucks involved in the crash
- Three trucks were stationery and 'engaged in road maintenance'
- One truck, Budget-branded, was travelling east towards Matatā
- Three road workers died and two were injured
- The Budget truck driver was not injured.

Sources: New Zealand Police, NZTA