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Four people are dead and three others have been injured after a minivan and truck collided at a rural intersection east of Ashburton this morning.
Police were alerted to reports of the serious multi-vehicle accident at Cochranes Rd outside Ashburton at 9.30am on Friday.
Mid South Canterbury Police Area Commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said the minivan with six people was travelling on Cochranes Rd and it appeared to have driven through a controlled intersection with Wakanui Rd and collided with a heavy truck.
Three people died at the scene, and one later in Ashburton Hospital, all occupants of the van.
The other two occupants of the van were also injured, one is in a critical condition in hospital and one in a serious condition.
The truck driver was also injured and is in Ashburton Hospital.
"The van appears to be a group of people who have travelled from the North Island," Gaskin said.
Police were trying to find out exactly what happened.
"This is an absolute tragedy and a terrible start to Queen’s Birthday.
"It appears a moment’s inattention has caused this tragedy. I urge people to be careful and take their time and be careful."
The people inside the van appear to be a group of adults who have travelled from the North Island.
"This is an absolute tragedy," he said.
Diversions will soon be in place.
While the area was badly affected in the Canterbury flooding earlier this week, Gaskin said the crash had nothing to do with flood events of the past week.
He said all the people in the van were adults.
The police serious crash unit was at the scene and the road would be closed for some time.
"Any fatality is a hardship on the community.
"Ashburton and Mid Canterbury area has suffered a number of these types of accidents.
"All I can really stress is be very, very careful on the roads. It is up to all of us to do our bit."
The road’s likely to be close for much of the afternoon.
"Given the serious nature of this crash, the formal identification process of those who have died is likely to take some time," Gaskin said.
"It’s been an awful start to the weekend here in Canterbury, with one person deceased in a crash in Riccarton Road this morning.
"Any death on our roads is too many, and crashes like these are also devastating for our staff and our local communities.
"Going into the long weekend, we would urge people to think carefully when they get behind the wheel – put down the cellphone, don’t drive impaired, drive to a safe speed, and wear your seatbelt."
It comes after a motorcyclist died after a crash at a busy Christchurch intersection this morning.
Emergency services were called to the scene at Riccarton Rd and Hansons Ln just before 7am.
A car was also involved in the crash. A police investigation is under way - and the Serious Crash Unit was examining the scene.
Diversions are in place in Riccarton, but motorists are asked to avoid the area.
- Reporting: Linda Clarke, NZ Herald