The survivor of a crash near Thames which killed three others was a passenger in a stolen car driven by his 20-year-old son, police say.
Emergency services were called to the two-car crash near Thames.
Police say the crash, at Kopu Bridge on State Highway 25 about 8.30pm, involved two cars with two people in each.
Three of the people died, while the condition of a 54-year-old man who was also taken to hospital with critical injuries, had since stabilised.
Police have confirmed the car the survivor was in was a stolen car.
They say his 20-year-old son, who died at the scene along with a local couple in their 60s who were in the other car, had been driving the stolen vehicle.
At this stage it was thought the stolen car crossed the centre line, colliding with the other car, says police.
The Serious Crash Unit is investigating.
Thames-Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie says the victims were thought to be local.
"We actually thought it was an armed offenders callout because there were so many police cars going in so many directions.
"So, it's heartbreaking to know how tragic the situation actually was."
Sandra says the stretch of highway was good, and an investigation would determine what went wrong.