Hero po­lice of­fi­cer dies dur­ing camp

The Press - - News - JOEL INESON & HAMISH MCNEILLY

A po­lice of­fi­cer once shot at while pur­su­ing a sus­pect has died while on a school camp.

Palmer­ston Se­nior Con­sta­ble Ste­fan Wite­hira died on Wed­nes­day at a year 10 camp for East Otago High School stu­dents. He was chair­man of the school’s board of trustees.

Emer­gency ser­vices were called to a Glenorchy prop­erty, near Queen­stown, about 11.45am after Wite­hira went into car­diac ar­rest.

East Otago High prin­ci­pal Len­nox Sharp is­sued a state­ment mourn­ing the loss of its ‘‘community leader’’, who was the chair­man of the school’s board of trustees.

‘‘Ste­fan was a well-known and highly re­spected mem­ber of both our school and the east Otago community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wite­hira wha¯ nau dur­ing this most dif­fi­cult time.’’

Dunedin North MP David Clark said Wite­hira’s death was ‘‘a huge loss for the community’’.

‘‘I had enor­mous re­spect for Ste­fan, the con­struc­tive way he went about community polic­ing. My thoughts are with his fam­ily and the peo­ple of Palmer­ston dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time.’’

Wite­hira and col­league Se­nior Con­sta­ble Dar­rin Low were shot at while lay­ing road spikes south of Palmer­ston on Fe­bru­ary 2, 2009.

The two men later re­ceived Sil­ver Merit Awards from the New Zealand Po­lice for ex­hibit­ing ‘‘pro­fes­sion­al­ism and courage’’ dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

The male shooter was a pas­sen­ger in a stolen truck, which a woman was driv­ing, dur­ing a po­lice pur­suit. The cou­ple had two in­fants in the ve­hi­cle and the po­lice of­fi­cers would later tes­tify that one was used as a hu­man shield.

Wite­hira and Low pur­sued the truck un­til it crashed. The oc­cu­pants ran sev­eral kilo­me­tres through the coun­try­side. Po­lice even­tu­ally over­pow­ered and ar­rested the sus­pects.

At the time, Wite­hira said: ‘‘We were just do­ing our job.’’

The East Otago High School’s li­brary would be open from 9am un­til 3pm for those want­ing to leave flow­ers, mes­sages or food for his fam­ily.

Po­lice have been ap­proached for com­ment.

Se­nior Con­sta­ble Ste­fan Wite­hira

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