Police should have terminated fatal car chase, authority finds

An inquiry into a high-speed chase that ended in a crash that claimed the lives of two Levin men has found the police should have pulled out of the pursuit.

Harley Kendrick Sean Wilson, 21, and his passenger, Michael Adam Kaui Keepa, 25, were both killed after a 38.5-kilometre, 17-minute car chase that started in Mt Maunganui on October 8, 2010.

The pair were travelling in a Toyota Hilux ute stolen in Levin, and having driven to the Bay of Plenty, came to the attention of the police when they appeared to be trying to avoid a police checkpoint by pulling over, then driving away at speed. Two police cars followed, but abandoned their efforts at Papamoa Beach when Mr Wilson swerved to avoid road spikes.

The pursuit was picked up again a minute and a half later when Mr Wilson was seen by another patrol car heading towards Te Puke.

A fourth patrol car also entered the pursuit, reaching top speeds of 160kmh on the open road. As the police entered Te Puke, they were travelling at speeds of 135kmh in a 50kmh zone.

Mr Wilson lost control of the ute on a corner and crashed down a grass bank into a lamp-post and tree. He was estimated to be travelling at 110kmh in a 50kmh zone. He had a small amount of alcohol in his system, but was not over the limit.

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today found although the police were right to attempt to stop Mr Wilson, they did not properly take into account the sustained high speed of the fleeing vehicle, particularly on roads with 50 to 70kmh speed limits and should have abandoned it numerous times throughout the three stages of the pursuit.

It was also undesirable that two of the officers had failed to carry out a pre-deployment check of their patrol car and the equipment it carried, as was the attempt to use road spikes on a car travelling at more than 100kmh.

The authority has recommended all front-line and Northern Communications Centre staff involved in the pursuit be reminded of the risks of travelling at such high speeds, and that all staff be reminded of the importance of carrying out pre-deployment checks to ensure it is in a safe operating condition.

Since the police Fleeing Driver policy now requires officers to continually relay the applicable speed limits during a pursuit, the authority made no recommendation in that respect.

Manawatu Standard