Broth­ers, friend die in fierce car in­ferno

Waikato Times - - News - Tom Kitchin and Sam Sher­wood

Two young broth­ers and their friend are dead af­ter the stolen car they were in hit po­lice spikes at speed, crashed and ex­ploded in a ‘‘huge ball of fire’’.

Two of­fi­cers who laid the spikes tried to save the boys, suf­fer­ing smoke in­hala­tion in the process, but it was too late.

‘‘Sadly this was not pos­si­ble due to the in­tense heat and fire,’’ Can­ter­bury dis­trict com­man­der Su­per­in­ten­dent John Price said.

The stolen Mazda Fa­milia was first seen speed­ing in cen­tral Christchurch at 11.13pm on Sun­day, reach­ing speeds in ex­cess of 130kmh and run­ning red lights on Moor­house Ave.

It is un­der­stood the driver of the car was 16, while his brother and the other pas­sen­ger were 13.

Po­lice started chas­ing the car but aban­doned the pur­suit af­ter just over a minute be­cause of the way it was be­ing driven, Price said. Mean­while, of­fi­cers laid spikes a few kilo­me­tres away in Blen­heim Rd to try to stop the car. The car hit the spikes, lost con­trol and crashed into a tree, rup­tur­ing the fuel tank and ex­plod­ing in flames.

‘‘There has been a ball of fire, we know this from CCTV footage,’’ Price said.

Both of­fi­cers went directly to the car and ‘‘did their very best’’ to get the teens out.

The of­fi­cers, who were at home re­cu­per­at­ing from smoke in­hala­tion, were ‘‘ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated’’ by the deaths, Price said.

A dis­as­ter vic­tim iden­ti­fi­ca­tion team would iden­tify the three dead teens but po­lice had a ‘‘fair idea’’ who they were from items in the car, which was stolen the same night as the crash.

Po­lice were in con­tact with their fam­i­lies, Price said.

Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Chris Cahill said the ‘‘tragic con­se­quences’’ of lay­ing the road spikes could not have been an­tic­i­pated. He said spikes caused tyres to de­flate and the car to stop fur­ther down the road, rather than the tyres blow­ing out.

‘‘What’s clear is the pur­suit had been called off sev­eral min­utes be­fore­hand and the car con­tin­ued to travel at speed.

‘‘It wasn’t be­ing caused by po­lice of­fi­cers pur­su­ing but clearly by those peo­ple choos­ing to drive at those dan­ger­ous speeds.’’

The num­ber of peo­ple killed dur­ing po­lice pur­suits in­creased ev­ery year be­tween 2014 and 2017.

Po­lice and the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Con­duct Au­thor­ity (IPCA) are re­view­ing their flee­ing driver pol­icy on a na­tion­wide level.

The find­ings were ini­tially ex­pected to be re­leased late last year but, ‘‘be­cause of the com­plex­ity of the is­sues and the need for care­ful anal­y­sis’’, the re­port is now ex­pected to be fi­nalised in Fe­bru­ary.

Cahill said he was in­ter­ested to see the out­come of the re­view.

‘‘This in­ci­dent high­lights no one in­ci­dent is the same, each in­ci­dent has their own sets of cir­cum­stances.

‘‘If po­lice did noth­ing, that ve­hi­cle was go­ing to con­tinue to travel at speed and could have had se­ri­ous im­pacts for in­no­cent mem­bers of the pub­lic.’’

Hu­man rights bar­ris­ter Deb­o­rah Man­ning said New Zealand was out of step with in­ter­na­tional prac­tice around po­lice pur­suits.

‘‘We should not be pur­su­ing, or chas­ing, driv­ers for speed­ing.

‘‘It puts peo­ple into flight mode and young peo­ple can­not make good de­ci­sions un­der that pres­sure,’’ Man­ning said.

‘‘Speed­ing does not jus­tify los­ing three young lives.’’

Price said pur­suits like the one in the early hours were ex­tremely test­ing for po­lice.

‘‘They are fast-mov­ing, un­pre­dictable and high pres­sure sit­u­a­tions that re­quire quick judg­ments.

‘‘Ul­ti­mately, po­lice are here to pro­tect our com­mu­nity.

‘‘Our staff must strike a bal­ance be­tween the re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect life and the duty to en­force the law.’’

A po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the lat­est in­ci­dent was un­der way, Price said.

IPCA would be ad­vised, which was stan­dard prac­tice, he said.

SUP­PLIED/NZ PO­LICE

The charred re­mains of the flee­ing car, which ex­ploded af­ter crash­ing in Christchurch, killing the three teenage boys in­side. The car crashed into a tree af­ter hit­ting road spikes placed by po­lice af­ter a pur­suit was aban­doned.

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