Fatal police chase warning

Last updated 12:00 22/06/2012

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A police officer has been criticised for the speed he reached during a pursuit that ended in a fatal crash.

However, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) also found the chased driver was prepared to risk his life and those of others to get away.

The authority today released its findings into the death of Api Kao Aue, 33, who lost control of a Subaru Impreza on December 4, 2010, in Mangere.

Kao Aue, who had more than twice the legal blood alcohol level, died at the scene and his two passengers were seriously injured.

The IPCA said for a short time the pursuing police car reached 150kmh in a 60kmh zone.

It said the risk to the pursued driver, the police and the public from driving at such a speed "outweighed the need to apprehend the offender''.

It said the speed reached by police was unjustified because it was two and a half times over the speed limit, the pursuit route was through a semi-residential area and was heading towards a major intersection, there was a medium level of traffic on the roads as well as some pedestrians; and while visibility was good, the chase was at night, putting additional pressure on a driver's ability to react to potential hazards.

As a result, the IPCA recommended the officer, identified only as A, should be reminded of the risks of pursuing at high speed.

The report found in all other respects, the chase was lawful and followed police policy.

The authority said one of the passengers in the pursued car had said all the vehicles' occupants had been drinking heavily.

The passenger said Kao Aue was driving fast, overtaking cars and driving on the wrong side of the road. He had made numerous requests to Kao Aue to slow down but Kao Aue had responded by turning up the music.

The passenger said he was unaware that police were following and no-one in the car had mentioned it.

The report outlined how two police officers, A and B, were on patrol in an unmarked car when they saw the Subaru travelling quickly. They began following it and stayed about 300 metres behind.

The report said as Kao Aue approached an intersection, he suddenly accelerated and overtook a vehicle. The officers saw that Kao Aue didn't indicate, and that he was overtaking on a hill with poor visibility of oncoming traffic.

At this stage, Kao Aue was estimated to be driving at about 100kmh. He drove past a traffic island on the wrong side of the road and stayed in the wrong lane until he arrived at the top of a rise.

Officer A then decided to stop the driver, and turned on the police car's warning lights and siren. However, because the car was unmarked and they were so far behind the Subaru, the officers did not think the driver was immediately aware of them, and was not trying to evade them. They did not therefore notify other police units of the situation.

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The report said the officers continued to pursue the car without getting any closeer to it. Officer B then contacted police communications to advise they were in a "priority" situation, and gave their location.

At this point both vehicles were travelling at more than 100kmh in a 60kmh zone.

Officer A told the authority he knew they were approaching a major intersection, and might have to abandon the pursuit.

Police policy requires that once a pursuit has begun, the communications dispatcher must give the warning: "...if there is any unjustified risk to any person you are to abandon pursuit immediately, acknowledge".

This warning was given to officer B and he immediately responded: "Yeah acknowledged comms, current speed 150, traffic medium, he's just spun out and he's crashed, crashed, crashed, vehicles gone down, we'll need ambos".

Kao Aue had lost control of the Subaru while going around a bend. The car hit a steel sign post on top of a grassy verge outside a hotel and restaurant.

Kao Aue died and his two passengers were seriously injured.

In a police interview, both officers commented on their maximum speed of 150kmh in a 60kmh zone.

Officer A said he "...felt at the time that this speed was still safe [to] maintain in the circumstances although I was aware that after rounding the corner at the intersection of Ascot Avenue the dark-coloured vehicle would approach George Bolt Dr and enter a busier area of Mangere."

Officer B said: "I remember thinking when I informed comms of our speed, it was a bit quick."

A police crash investigation found there were two primary contributors to Kao Aue crashing. He was driving  between 126kmh and 137kmh when attempting to negotiate a bend and was intoxicated.

The authority said Kao Aue "demonstrated by his actions that he was prepared to risk his life and the lives of others by driving in the manner that he did".

- Auckland Now

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