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Police cleared over fatal pursuits

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 20/09/2016 Sean Martin

Police have been cleared over their handling of two pursuits that left three teenagers dead in January.

The police watchdog said officers involved in the incidents involving teen drivers in Papatoetoe and Masterton were justified in starting a pursuit and complied with the law and policy.

Eden Nathan © Givealittle Eden Nathan Eden Nathan, 16 was killed in the south Auckland crash on January 24 when the car she was a passenger in hit another car while fleeing police. Pacer Willacy-Scott and Hoani Korewha, both 15, died when the car they were passengers in crashed into a lamp post in the Wairarapa town a week later.

Authority chair 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."

The 15-year-old girl behind the wheel when Miss Nathan was killed has failed to regain consciousness since the crash and is in a residential care facility.

The 14-year-old driver in the Masterton crash was charged with a host of offences including dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing injury and was dealt with in the Youth Court.

Police said both fatal crashes need not have happened.

"Both of these tragic outcomes could have been avoided had each driver stopped when requested to by police. There is no infringement notice or conviction that is worth the loss of lives we've seen in these two incidents," said national road policing manager, Superintendent Steve Greally.

The Papatoetoe pursuit began after an officer responding to reports a car was being broken into spotted a vehicle believed to have been stolen which speed off when it saw the police car.

During the four-minute pursuit in the early hours of the morning, the car being pursued hit 115km/h in a 50km/h zone and sped through two red lights before losing control and hitting another vehicle coming the opposite way.

Miss Nathan died at the scene and the driver was taken to Middlemore Hospital in a critical condition. The driver of the other vehicle was not injured.

Police in the Masterton crash had abandoned their pursuit of a speeding stolen car seconds before it hit a lamp post after judging it was too dangerous to continue.

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