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The double-vehicle accident, which involved a van and a truck, happened at Cochranes Rd at 9.30am on Friday.
Police told the Herald an investigation was underway and names of the deceased would be released proactively when appropriate.
Gerald Dolan, who was first to witness the damage, said he felt the shock of the accident in his home 100 metres away.
"It was very bad," Gerald Dolan told the Herald.
"It happened so fast and I thought, golly that was something pretty big. It honestly felt like a bomb."
"We felt the vibration of the accident all through the house."
Dolan said he went out to see what had happened but stayed 50 metres away.
"I didn't want to get any closer. I wouldn't have been able to handle it.
"It was my wife who told me that people had died after hearing it from others. I felt very emotional even though I didn't know them."
"The road is dangerous and although there is a stop sign, people speed along the road all the time."
"A serious crash was bound to happen sooner or later."
"The truck must've been travelling fast and pushed the van into a power pole. It hit the pole really hard."
A road safety campaigner said the crash could have been avoided if the intersection had been properly marked.
Clive Matthew-Wilson said accidents of this kind were frequently the result of drivers not noticing a compulsory stop sign.
"Canterbury is criss-crossed with intersections such as the Cochranes Rd/Wakanui Rd intersection where this accident occurred. Drivers new to the area, driving along a long, flat road, may not see the approaching intersection until it's too late.
"One small stop sign is not enough."
"If drivers are unaware that there is a stop sign, they may just drive straight through, often with fatal consequences."
"This type of accident is not uncommon in the Canterbury area. I wonder how many more innocent people have to die before the Government takes action."
The Herald can confirm the driver of the van was tour company Identity Tours Ltd co-owner Avinesh Chand.
His business partner did not wish to comment on Chand's death, saying only that it was a "very hard time right now".
It comes after warnings were set in place to alert this weekend's road users of ensuring their safety is paramount.
Area commander Inspector David Gaskin said the crash was because of "a moment of inattention".
"A terrible start to the Queen's Birthday long weekend," he said.
It reinforces the message for drivers to be careful and take their time on the roads.
Chand was reportedly transporting festival goers to a three-day event in Gore which started on Friday.
The driver of the truck involved in the crash was taken to hospital for treatment.
Three people inside Chand's van died at the scene, and a fourth died at Ashburton Hospital. Two more passengers were taken to hospital, one in a serious condition.
The passengers are believed to be from the North Island.