'It was like an explosion': Foggy head-on smash kills four, ending horror day on the roads
A horrific two-car crash late on Saturday night has claimed four lives and left two other people badly injured on a well-known killer highway.
The force of the collision in rural Waikato sparked multiple explosions that rocked the homes of nearby residents.
It was the end of a tragic day: Eight people have died in just 24 hours on New Zealand roads.
Among them, heartbroken family members are preparing to farewell two young friends who died in a car crash together near Auckland on Saturday.
* Family in mourning after two die in crash on Auckland highway
* One person dead in Waikato crash
* Hawke's Bay police seeking information on fatal collision
* Fatal Pongaroa crash allegedly caused by drunk driver
Ricky Barker and Andre Ahman were both killed when their vehicle collided with another car on Dairy Flat Highway just after 1am.
Friends and relatives took to social media on Saturday to remember the pair, who were close friends, with plans for a musical tribute. One friend who worked in the music industry said he planned to hit the studio and write a track in remembrance.
Barker's brother posted an emotional tribute on Facebook about his "beautiful, amazing little bro".
"You are the most loving, caring, and kind-hearted young boy ever and I can't believe you are gone," he wrote. "You are the most amazing little bro I could ever ask for, I love you more than I can ever explain."
A friend remembered Barker and Ahman as "beautiful people with hearts of gold".
"I couldn't believe it when I heard it," she wrote. "I'm so grateful I had the chance to befriend you both and have such crazy rad unforgettable moments."
In Gisborne, a local woman died after being hit by a car on Cobden St shortly after 11pm on Friday.
Another woman died and three others, including two children, were taken to hospital following a crash on State Highway 10 north of Kaitaia just after 12:30pm on Saturday.
Then in Waikato, near Netherton, neighbours were aghast at the sound of the collision that claimed four lives in a fiery tragedy at 7.40pm.
One neighbour said his initial reaction was to think a truck must have blown a tyre on the highway.
"I won't be sleeping tonight, not after something like that."
Another resident said he and his wife were not home at the time of the crash, but had since been allowed through the police cordon to return to their house.
Hauraki mayor John Tregidga said the crash was a horrific tragedy on a busy highway that was known for accidents. "That stretch of road is extremely busy, and we just have too many crashes," he said.
"We've been asking for upgrades to State Highway 2, and we've been working actively with the Transport Agency on further safety measures."
Emergency services were working through the night at the scene, around 20km south of Thames.
Police confirmed four people died at the scene, with two others taken to hospital, after two vehicles collided in the dark.
Fire service shift manager Jaron Phillips said one car was ablaze when fire crews arrived; three people were trapped in the other vehicle.
State Highway 2 is closed between Fisher Rd and School Rd – the closure will likely remain in place overnight, and diversions are in place.
There is heavy fog around the crash area, and police were urging motorists to drive "with extreme caution".
No further information will be released about the crash victims while police inform their next of kin.
- Sunday Star Times