Police have named the three American students killed in a crash near Taupo this morning.
Boston University students Daniela Rosanna Lekhno, Roch Jauberty, and Austin Brashears died at the scene when the van they were travelling in rolled at around 7.30am on Lake Rotoaira Rd, near Rangipo, 10km south of Turangi.
The people mover van, travelling in convoy with another van, was carrying up to eight students from the university when it rolled, throwing several people from the car.
"Second of the vehicles had drifted to the left going around a bend, wheels touched gravel, driver over-corrected and it's rolled and thrown students out," road policing manager inspector Kevin Taylor told ONE News tonight.
"Why the vehicle drifted to the left is still to be established."
A 21-year-old woman remains in the intensive care unit at Waikato Hospital in a critical condition while two other passengers, believed to be in their 20s, are in a stable condition in Rotorua Hospital with moderate injuries.
A man and a woman received treatment at Taupo Hospital for relatively minor injuries and have been discharged this evening.
The group were on their way to walk the Tongariro Crossing.
Wearing of seatbelts unconfirmed
Police say they cannot confirm if all the passengers were wearing seatbelts, but the fact that some students were thrown from the vehicle indicates at least some were not restrained.
The students have been studying a range of subjects in New Zealand since January as part of a university exchange programme.
They are believed to have often toured the country as a group in weekends and university holidays.
Police have taken the other traumatised students involved to Turangi, where they are being interviewed.
"They're all friends, or all known to each other, so it's a significant tragedy for them. Bear in mind it's a remote location so they were first on the scene and have to deal with people they know," said Taylor.
The students are receiving support from police, victim support and coordinators from the exchange programme.
Messages are already flowing on the Boston University website as people post their condolences.
Police say they are working with the United States Embassy to notify next of kin as soon as possible.
State Highway 46 is closed between State Highway One and State Highway 47 while the scene is being examined.