The group of people involved in a fatal road crash this morning near Turangi were overseas students on their way to walk the Tongariro Crossing.
Police are not in a position to comment on nationalities at this stage as they are working with the New Zealand based student coordinator and consulates to notify families overseas as quickly as possible.
The crash happened at approximately 7.30am this morning on Lake Rotoaira Road, also known as SH46, Otukao near Turangi.
Two people movers were travelling in convoy and it was the vehicle at the rear that crashed.
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.
The eight people in the other people mover are being supported by Police until their can be transferred into the care of the student coordinators.
Road Policing Manager Inspector Kevin Taylor, said: "Our priority is ensuring the families of the students are contacted as soon as possible and the welfare of the other students from both vehicles is catered for.
"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."
It is also yet to be confirmed whether the occupants of the people mover were wearing seatbelts, but the fact that some students were thrown from the vehicle would indicate at least some were not restrained.
Police would like to appeal to all media to refrain from publishing any information obtained regarding identities or nationalities until that information can be formally confirmed. It is important that families of these students are notified through the appropriate channels and not through the media, and the fact that the families are overseas does not reduce the risks of family distress resulting from premature reporting.
Media enquiries should be referred to Communications Manager Kim Perks on 027 234 8256.