A nine-year-old girl is dead and six other people injured following a three-vehicle crash near the top of the Kaimai Range.
Police described the crash scene on the busy State Highway 29 as ‘‘horrific’’.
The death comes as police push the road safety message ahead of the Queen’s Birthday Weekend, which begins this afternoon.
Emergency services were called to the accident site about 4pm, on the western side of the mountain.
The crash initially involved two cars. A west-bound vehicle heading towards Hamilton crossed the centre line into an oncoming car, which included the girl and four others, Sergeant Wayne Hunter of Western Bay of Plenty police said.
Moments later, another east-bound vehicle hit the other two cars.
It is believed the dead girl was from Western Bay.
"I was at the crash scene myself, it was an horrific scene, with three cars involved," Hunter said.
"People have to realise that the Kaimai road is very busy, it can be dangerous and people need to take care. Traffic was backed up about 15 km down the mountain tonight which shows how busy it can become."
Police, St John ambulance and more than 20 fire staff were at the crash site. Fire teams used cutting equipment to free people from the vehicles.
Hunter said one driver was taken to Tauranga Hospital by ambulance.
The four people travelling in the same car as the girl were taken to Waikato Hospital in Hamilton and assessed by the hospital’s emergency department trauma team. The person in the third car was also taken to Tauranga Hospital.
He said the police serious crash unit would continue its investigation into the crash today.
With Waikato roads filling up with motorists, the region's road policing manager has warned the onus is on drivers to be prepared and be cautious.
Police will be enforcing a strict 4kmh speed tolerance from 4pm today till 6am on Tuesday, paying close attention to busy routes and well-known short cuts.
Forecast rain could also make roads slick this morning for those leaving early. Frosts could be another factor as skies clear tonight and temperatures plummet.
Rural roads, where the majority of Waikato's 22 fatal crashes occurred last year, will be dotted with hazards as dairy farms change ownership and herds of cows move from the shed to the road on Sunday, Gypsy Day.
Avoiding potentially fatal accidents and serious injury smashes starts before you leave home, Waikato road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace said yesterday.
"Don't leave home if you're tired - have a sleep and wait. Whatever it is you're going to do, if you are involved in an incident on the road you're not going to reach the destination anyway.
"If it's raining it is going to be slippery - no bald tyres, good brakes, good windscreen wipers, current warrant of fitness and registration."
She urged motorists to call in erratic driving.
Grace said a motorist reported a woman driving around corners on the wrong side of the road, travelling to Ngaruawahia from Hamilton.
The woman was stopped. She was unlicensed and when tested she blew 1105 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath - the legal limit is 400mcg.
The Automobile Association is also hoping for the second straight Queen's Birthday Weekend without any road deaths.
Last year was the first time it had been achieved since records began in 1956.
"Long weekends where no-one dies on the roads are possible," AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said.
The AA was urging people to wear seatbelts, stick to speed limits, stay sober and remain visible.
The death toll this year in the region, 19, is three off the record low total for 2013.
Dangerous drivers can be reported on *555 from any mobile or for serious incidents call 111.
- Waikato Times
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