21 September 2016
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police officers involved in two pursuits in which teenagers lost their lives in January 2016 were justified in commencing pursuit and complied with law and Police policy throughout.
In the early hours of Sunday 24 January 2016, Police received a report that a Nissan Lucino was being broken into in Papatoetoe, Auckland. A short time later a Police officer saw the stolen Nissan and signalled the driver to stop. The driver failed to stop and a pursuit commenced.
During the four minute pursuit, the officer reported to the Police communications centre that there was no other traffic on the roads, that the driver was driving at 115kph in a 50kph speed zone, that items were being thrown out of the car and finally, that the driver had gone through two red lights.
As the officer slowed down to drive through the red lights he lost sight of the Nissan. He came upon the crash scene shortly after. The 15-year-old driver had lost control and collided with another vehicle. Her 16-year-old passenger, Eden Nathan, died as a result of the collision. The driver, who sustained extremely serious injuries, remains in a residential care facility. The driver of the other vehicle was not injured.
A week later, in the early hours of Sunday 31 January, two Police officers saw a car driving at speed in Masterton. The officers decided to stop the car to speak to the driver. As they got closer to the car the officers saw that it matched the description of a Honda that had been stolen from Featherston a few hours earlier.
When the officers activated their red and blue flashing lights and siren the driver of the Honda sped up and travelled through a stop sign at over 100kph. The officers assessed that the pursuit was too dangerous to continue, as the car was heading towards the centre of town and there were a number of pedestrians and vehicles in the area. The officers abandoned pursuit, which had lasted a total of 30 seconds.
As the Police car pulled over, the officers saw the Honda travel over five raised courtesy crossings at speed, then turn left sharply and crash. When the officers drove up to the crash scene to assist the occupants, they found that the Honda contained four teenagers. Two 15-year-old passengers, Pacer Willacy-Scott and Hoani Korewha, died as a result of the crash. The 14-year-old driver and other passenger sustained minor injuries.
The Authority found that in both pursuits the officers involved were justified in commencing pursuit and conducted thorough risk assessments throughout. The Masterton pursuit was correctly abandoned when the risk to the public increased as the driver drove at speed towards the town centre.
Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, said: “Both of these crashes were caused by the actions of the teenage drivers. They resulted in the tragic and needless loss of life or serious injury to several young people.”