Stretch of State Highway 1 near Picton where seven people died often scene of crashes, locals say

Marlborough locals say the stretch of road that was the scene of a horrific fatal crash has been a death trap for years.

Seven people died and two were injured after a van and a refrigerated goods truck collided on State Highway 1 just south of Picton at 7:30am on Sunday. It's the main road from Blenheim to Picton, which is the route to the Cook Strait ferry.

What was left was a scene of devastation. The truck driver has survived, but there is very little remaining of the other vehicle. 

Nearby residents making their breakfast heard the loud collision.

"When we got up and walked around, all I can say to you, it was a nice sunny day but then the sun wasn't shining. It was a horrible feeling. Suddenly I thought, 'God this place has become famous for something horrible'," witness Rick Rawlings said.

He said the stretch of road is now notorious for fatal accidents.

"I thought quite some time ago it was a wake-up call, and now we've got this."

Another nearby resident, Mark Heaton, said in the 20 years he's been there, there've been at least 12 crashes outside his house.

"About four years ago, one landed up a tree about 500 metres up past our place. Across the road, there's been one flipped in a paddock opposite our place. Just countless," he said.

The weather and conditions on the road on Sunday morning were good, but residents said cars drive too fast rushing to and from the ferry on the narrow, windy road.

"And if you get a sharp corner, which there are many in the valley, and the end result is that there is nowhere for the driver to go," Rawlings said.

"The main cause is just speed, people just have got no patience and they just speed … If the ferry's late it's just worse," Heaton added.

Tasman District Commander Inspector Paul Borrell said it is "absolutely tragic" how seven people died "in the blink of an eye".

"At the moment, we are still establishing what happened but it would appear that the van has crossed the centerline," he said.

The van was believed to be carrying multiple members of one family and was heading north towards Picton. The large refrigeration truck had just come off the Cook Strait ferry and was heading south. 

Emergency services rushed to the horrific scene and found seven people dead in the van and two others injured, one critically.

The truck driver survived with moderate injuries.

"Absolute carnage. When you have heavy vehicles, such as a truck, involved hitting a lighter vehicle head-on, it's terrible," Insp Borrell said.

One of the officers who responded to the crash was only a few days into their job at Police.

"I think for all the emergency responders, this is a terrible situation to be involved in. One of our staff members, it was their third day working out of police college," Marlborough Area Commander Inspector Simon Feltham said.

Helicopters, ambulances, and Fire and Emergency all rushed to the scene too.

"It became evident pretty early on that multiple patients were involved. We sent a reasonably large amount of resources," said St John Tasman District operations support manager Murray Neal.

Whether speed was a factor in the crash is yet to be determined.