Police have confirmed the people involved in the fatal crash near Taupo this morning were overseas students on their way to walk to Tongariro Crossing.
A people mover type van rolled at 7.30am, on Lake Rotoaira Rd, also known as SH46, Otukao, throwing several people from the vehicle.
Police say there were up to eight people on board.
Two men and a woman died at the scene. There ages are unknown at this stage.
A woman in her 30s is in Waikato Hospital in a critical condition.
Two women in their 20s are in Rotorua Hospital with moderate injuries and one man and one woman, both in their 20s, are being treated at Taupo Hospital for relatively minor injuries.
“Our priority is ensuring the families of the students are contacted as soon as possible and the welfare of the other students is catered for,” says road policing manager Inspector Kevin Taylor
“Early indications from the scene examination are that the vehicle drifted to the left into the gravel, over corrected and the momentum has then resulted in the vehicle rolling. Why the vehicle drifted to the left is still to be established.”
Kevin says police are also yet to confirm whether the occupants were wearing seatbelts, “but the fact some students were thrown from the vehicle would indicate at least some were not restrained”.
Police say further details about the group will be available once arrangements are finalised for overseas notifications.
The Bay of Plenty Serious Crash Unit is investigating the cause of the accident.
SH46 remains closed between SH1 and SH47 while the crash scene is being examined.