Fleeing car ends up inside bank

EMMA BEER
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2012
ANZ bank crash
Nelson Police

AFTERMATH: The car sits where it came to a halt inside the ANZ building.

ANZ bank crash
Nelson Police
UNUSUAL DEPOSIT: The damaged frontage of the Nelson ANZ Bank branch after a car crashed into it.

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A Nelson taxi driver whose cab was hit moments before a car smashed through the ANZ Bank branch in Nelson says the collision was "like a bomb hitting".

The Toyota car was allegedly speeding away from a police checkpoint when it hit the back of Sue Lucas' taxi about 9pm on Saturday, before crashing through the glass doors of the Trafalgar Street bank.

"It spun me around almost 360 [degrees]. It was like a bomb hitting. It was a bit scary," Mrs Lucas said today.

"I really wasn't hurt. I had a violent headache yesterday and a sore wrist, but I'm a pretty tough female."

The 31-year-old driver of the car, from Motueka, appeared in the Nelson District Court this morning on charges of driving with excess breath alcohol, reckless driving, failing to stop for police, and driving while disqualified.

He was remanded on bail to reappear on December 17.

The three other occupants of the car were not facing any charges.

Mrs Lucas, 72, said she would be meeting with insurance assessors today.

"It's touch and go. He hit me very hard. The passenger back [door] and along the back of the boot, it's pretty damaged."

Her taxi had been on the road for only six months, but there was "no use crying", Mrs Lucas said.

It was the first time she had been involved in an accident in the 14 years she had been a taxi driver.

"Even in my own car, I haven't had an accident."

There was nothing she could do about it, she said, other than hope that the driver "gets his just deserts".

ANZ branch manager Jan Rees said this morning the bank was "definitely open" for business.

It had only taken about an hour to clean up the interior, she said.

"We've got a pretty awesome team here."

She was unsure how much it would cost to repair the front of the building, or when it would be done.

"But we're running now. It's just the front door [that's damaged] and a few things inside. As long as no-one was hurt, that's the main thing."

St John Ambulance said the driver of the Toyota suffered minor injuries and was assessed at the scene before being placed in police custody.

A 28-year-old rear seat passenger, also male, had minor injuries but refused further treatment and "wandered off", St John team manager Gary Tobin said.

A 27-year-old man who was in the front passenger seat was also assessed but required no treatment.

A police spokeswoman said officers had attempted to stop the car in St Vincent St minutes before the crash.

The car initially pulled over to the kerb at the checkpoint, but as an officer approached it, the driver accelerated away, the spokeswoman said.

The vehicle turned into the car park at The Warehouse and was pursued by police out on to Hardy St. Police abandoned the pursuit after less than a minute due to the car's speed.

The car continued up Hardy St into the central city at high speed, and collided with Mrs Lucas' taxi. The driver then lost control, narrowly avoiding several pedestrians, before crashing through the main doors of the bank, the spokeswoman said.

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Wellingtonians Liz and Mike Ritchie were at Ford's Restaurant and Bar across the street when they heard the car crash into the bank. They said it hit bollards on the pavement before smashing through the glass frontage.

"We heard this almighty crash. We saw this car go straight into the front of the ANZ building. It was amazing," Liz Ritchie said.

She said about seven police cars arrived "from all four corners" within a minute.

Mike Ritchie said the car looked like it had gone 15 metres into the building, "all the way to the back".

"What was worse was you could hear the roar of the engine as the car tried to reverse out."

One of the men in the car tried to run away, but someone tackled him to the ground and restrained him until police arrived, he said.

It was incredibly fortunate that no-one was killed, he said.

"Luckily they didn't strike anything more substantial. If they had hit a tree, they would have died for sure.

"Or if they had hit a pedestrian ... It's a busy night in town, they could have taken out a family," he said.

- The Nelson Mail

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