A triple fatality on a Raetihi farm in the central North Island has shaken the Ruapehu District.
Three people from one family were killed when their car crashed into a dam and plunged into a pond yesterday.
They were a 66-year-old woman and two boys aged five and ten.
Emergency services were called to the scene just after 11am.
A fourth person, a 69-year-old man from the same family as the victims was also in the vehicle and suffered moderate injuries. He was discharged from Whanganui Hospital last night.
The bodies were found trapped in the vehicle when it was pulled from the water.
Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron said the well-respected family were well-known in the district and the deaths are "an absolute tragedy" for the community.
He told Morning Report it took the breaching of a dam to recover the bodies of three people.
"One member of the family had left his work when he heard something had happened and he had jumped off to a digger which was parked nearby, rode it down and went to the dam to block the water levels so he could get to the vehicle."
The water in the pond was roughly 3-4 metres deep, he said.
Cameron said he understands they were in a side-by-side, an off-road farm vehicle similar to a golf cart.
"By the time they got there (emergency services) I believe it was just too late to save anyone."
WorkSafe has been notified and police are investigating.