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‘Hell, I hope I get away’

Friends told driver not to stop before fatal crash- report


By Geoff Vause

[email protected]

A teenage driver had no intention of stopping for police before two of his friends perished in a crash at Masterton earlier this year.

Officers chased the stolen Honda Civic for about thirty seconds before deciding the reckless driving they were seeing could also put the public and other road users at risk.

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released yesterday said both Masterton police officers involved were justified in the pursuit around 2am on January 31, and complied with law and police policy, “in so far as they were able”.

Judge Sir David Carruthers said the actions of the teenage driver resulted in the “tragic and needless loss of life and serious injury” to young people.

The driver told the Authority he knew he was driving a car that didn’t belong to him, or his three friends in the car.

He said when he saw the red and blue flashing lights behind him he thought “Hell, I hope I get away”.

When he went over the first of several raised courtesy crossings he started to slow down but his friends told him, “no just keep going, keep going, who cares”.

The driver said the adrenaline and his friends pushing him made him drive faster.

He was doing about 90kph when he hit the second-to-last courtesy crossing and changed gear to increase his speed.

When he crashed he jumped from the car, relatively unhurt.

Bars on Queen Street were closing in the small hours of Sunday morning when the car roared through the town. Several witnesses saw sparks flying out from beneath the vehicle as it went over the courtesy crossings.

They said the police car in pursuit “seemed to stop following it” at that time.

A witness said at the last crossing the car “totally lost control, hit the ground and just completely spun out”.

The car hit a concrete lamp post.

Witnesses ran to the car and saw four males, aged 14 to 16, in the car.

Two were able to get out with help from bystanders.

The other two were not moving.

The two police officers involved said they noticed the car because of the way it was being driven.

They recognised the Honda matched a car stolen from Featherston.

They flicked on their flashing lights about 30 metres behind the car to signal the car to stop and told police central communications (CentComs) it was failing to do so.

The car went through intersections without slowing, and CentComs gave the pursuit warning “if there’s any unjustified risk to any person you are to abandon pursuit immediately. Acknowledge”.

Officer A told CentComms he was a gold class driver and was in a car permitted to give chase.

He told the Authority he saw the Honda pass through a stop sign at the Queen Street and Renall Street intersection “easily in excess of 100kph”.

He decided pursuit would be too dangerous, turned off the flashing lights and slowed down.

The total chase was about thirty seconds.

The Authority found the brief pursuit was justified, and the officers had complied with the law and Police policy.

The unlicensed driver and youngest of the four in the car faced a variety of charges in the Masterton Youth Court.

Wairarapa Area Commander Donna Howard said she was pleased the findings would give the police officers “some closure”.

“This [incident] had the worst possible outcome for everyone,” Ms Howard said.

“The lives of two young people have been lost, and nothing will ever heal the pain that this has caused to those who knew and loved them.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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