Fifteen people - including several Asian tourists - were taken to hospital after a road smash involving two vans in a remote location south of Taumarunui.
One male, aged in his 20s, is in a critical condition after suffering abdominal injuries while another patient, also a young male, is in a serious condition suffering from head and leg injuries.
Both were transported by Taranaki Rescue Helicopter to Waikato hospital.
That crash, about 3pm, was followed soon after by another crash that injured two motorcyclists, further along SH43.
The first crash involved a van carrying a local shearing gang and a rental van carrying Asian tourists, mostly appearing to be aged in their 20s.
The injured all looked shocked as they either sat or lay at the accident scene which was just north of the Tokirima rail bridge on State Highway 43, about 30km southwest of Taumarunui.
St John district operation manager Ian May said the two vans had 21 people onboard.
Four rescue helicopters, from Taranaki, Taupo, Waikato and Palmerston North, transported eight patients to Waikato Hospital while seven people were transported by three ambulances to Taumarunui Hospital.
Some of the shocked tourists were escorted in a police van to Taumarunui hospital where they were met with translators.
Senior Sergeant Grant Alabaster, said police were still investigating the cause of the crash.
"Preliminary findings show that one van has been on the wrong side of the road around a corner and crashed head-on with the other van. We believe that alcohol is not a factor in the crash," he said.
Mr May said a rescue helicopter then attended a second crash on State Highway 43 - an approximate 15-minute drive away from the first accident.
"As we were transporting the last few patients, a motorcycle crashed on SH43 not far from this accident.
"We ended up rediverting some resources and transporting one moderately injured motorcyclist to Waikato Hospital by helicopter and one moderately injured motorcyclist to Taumarunui Hospital by road ambulance," he said. Fairfax NZ
- © Fairfax NZ News
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