Three dead after car and tanker crash in Patea
Three people died when their car collided with a milk tanker on Patea's main street in South Taranaki.
Emergency services were alerted to the crash about 4.15pm on Thursday.
Residents reported hearing a loud explosion and the loss of power, and thick black smoke could be seen billowing from the scene on Egmont St.
The car was backing out of a driveway when the crash occurred.
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St John Ambulance central region communications advisor Mark Tregoweth said three people had died and they had transported two others to Hawera hospital.
One was the driver of the tanker, who had sustained moderate injuries, while the other person had minor injuries, said Taranaki St John spokesman Ian May.
The tanker hit a power pole, bringing down lines and disconnecting some homes for around an hour.
Sergeant Lincoln McCrea, of Hawera police, said the Serious Crash Unit is investigating.
"We don't know what happened yet. The truck was heading north through Patea and has collided with a car backing out of the driveway."
The three people who died were in the car, he said.
"A disaster victim identification team is coming to help identify the people in the car."
McCrea said the bodies would be removed from the car on Thursday night and confirmed two of the dead people were from the same family.
He said diversions were expected to remain in place for a further two hours until about 10.30pm.
Police, fire and St John Ambulance attended, and a power company employee was seen at work up a power pole.
BP service station staff member Christina Whakatutu said she was coming back from her break when "there was a big burst of flames and that's all I could see".
She said the thick black smoke could be seen for a great distance.
BP manager Michelle Bishop said they heard a big bang while they were working and the station's power surged so they went outside to have a look.
"We could see big black smoke and massive flames," Bishop said.
Warren Cassidy, who lives near where the accident happened, said he was in his house when he also heard an enormous bang.
"I came out and all I could see was two power poles going up."
He saw the truck but did not notice the car at first because both were in flames.
"A joker came out of his house and helped the truck driver to get out of the truck.
"There was smoke everywhere."
Local resident Ted Broughton said he went outside after his power went out following the loud bang.
He saw a car on fire and fire crews trying to extinguish it.
"The fire crew put it out and it was all black.
"The power was out for about an hour. They were pretty quick to get it back on."
Ted's wife, Carolyn, said: "We were watching TV when we heard a loud bang. The lines were down and tangled around the power pole."
Pat Fitzell, Taranaki area commander of the fire service, said: "The power lines were brought down and there was a bit of a risk with that."
Tiger-Lily Swanson, 12, whose family run the Albion Hotel, on Egmont Street, said her mother had sent her down to see what had happened.
"There was heaps of smoke that I saw from my bedroom. The car was completely squashed and it had a brown mat thrown over it."
Swanson said there were "heaps" of people watching from the street as the drama unfolded.
The state highway was closed and diversions around the side streets remained into the evening to protect the scene.
The New Zealand Transport Agency is urging drivers to take extra care.