Police have described a horrific crash near Ohakune last night that killed four young tourists as tragic.
Argentinians Agustin Donofrio, 25, German Caceres, 35, Nicolas Ursic, 27 and Luciano Pucheta, 19 died when the car they were driving collided head on with a truck.
A 26-year-old Chilean man, Benjamin Blake, was the only survivor of the crash. He was taken to Waikato Hospital in a serious condition, and was operated on for life-threatening injuries.
Emergency services described the crash as one of the worst they have seen.
"It's frustrating, tragic. Touches the lives of so many people and it's unnecessary," Inspector Steve Mastrovich said.
A tow truck driver who helped clean up after the crash said it looked like a bomb had gone off.
"The accident scene had stuff lying around all over the road and bits of car everywhere," Colin Fredricksen said.
The crash occurred on State Highway 4 between Ohakune and National Park, just south of Erua in the central North Island about 10 last night.
The men had just played a game of indoor soccer in Ohakune and were returning to their backpacker accommodation in National Park, Taumarunui inspector Steve Mastrovich said.
Their stationwagon was overtaking another vehicle on a straight stretch of road when it collided with the truck.
"It got into a bit of a dip on a straight and when it came out a truck and trailer came around the bend and they couldn't avoid it," Mastrovich said.
"There's not 100 metres of clear visibility for anybody throughout the entire passing maneuver, which is the rule."
The car was dragged some distance and some of the men were flung from it. The truck driver received minor injuries.
Crash investigators canvassed the scene again this morning and will be looking into whether speed or alcohol were factors, but there was no indication either were involved, Mastrovich said.
The men had been working in the local area in the tourism industry.