Five teenage boys, aged 15 and 16-years-old, are confirmed to have died in a crash near Timaru last night, where not everyone was wearing a seatbelt.
A sixth person - the driver - remains in Timaru Hospital. In an update this morning, Southern Canterbury DHB said the driver was in a “serious but stable” condition.
Inspector Dave Gaskin confirmed last night the vehicle crashed at the intersection of Seadown Road and Meadows Road in Washdyke, just before 7.30pm.
The Nissan Bluebird is believed to now be "in pieces" after colliding with a power pole.
National Road Policing Director Superintendent Steve Greally noted the impact of the fatal crash would be felt widely by the small community affected.
"Everyone in the area will be hurting," he said.
"To have five lives lost in an instant is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts are with their families."
He said there were insufficient seats in the car for the number of people involved in this crash, and that only some occupants were wearing a seatbelt.
"This is incredibly frustrating," Geally said. "Seatbelts save lives, and it’s evident that not everyone in this car was belted in."
A full crash investigation will be carried out, however, it does appear speed was a likely factor in the crash.
"Driving at excess speed for the conditions and not being properly restrained are two of the unsafe driving behaviours that we know contribute to death and injury on our roads, which is sadly what appears to have happened here," Greally said.
Formal victim identification is ongoing.