Former police traffic boss killed cycling home

Steve Fitzgerald, who became known internationally for his role in running New Zealand's road policing, was killed in a road crash near Wellington last night.

Superintendent Fitzgerald, 57, was cycling from work about 5.25pm when he and an articulated truck and trailer unit crashed on the roundabout of the Hutt Road and The Esplanade on the Petone foreshore.

Some fellow police officers and ambulance staff were quickly at the scene, but were unable to resuscitate Mr Fitzgerald.

His death has stunned the police force, in which he played a variety of leading roles.

Acting Police Commissioner Lyn Provost said his family, friends and police colleagues were shocked and saddened.

"Steve has made an enormous contribution to policing in New Zealand," Ms Provost said.

Mr Fitzgerald was national manager of the Police Communication Centres for the past three years, but was publicly best known for his work as national road policing manager for the five years before that.

"In the eyes of many New Zealanders and our police colleagues internationally, Steve was the face of road policing," Ms Provost said.

"He oversaw all road policing operations and achieved significant and sustained reductions in road deaths and injury crashes."

Ms Provost said Mr Fitzgerald had played a significant role on community safety, particularly through his work with communications centres and road policing.

His appointment as head of communication followed an independent review of the NZ Police Comms.

"The last three years have seen significant improvements in the performance and capability of the communications centres," she said.

Mr Fitzgerald's police career began in the United Kingdom in 1967, when he became a cadet with the Leicester and Rutland Police Authority.

He came to New Zealand in 1974 and, in the same year, joined New Zealand Police as a recruit. On graduation, he was posted to the uniform branch in Wanganui where he remained until 1978.

Between 1978 and 1983 he worked at Auckland Airport before being appointed sergeant and moving to Wellington. There he undertook uniform branch roles until 1986, including a year in team policing.

In late 1986 he moved to Lower Hutt Police Station as the station senior sergeant and in 1992 went to Police National Headquarters.

He undertook a range of roles there including management review and strategic policy advice.

Lower Hutt police and specialist crash and commercial vehicle investigation officers are endeavouring to find out how the crash involving Mr Fitzgerald and the truck and trailer unit happened.

The accident was the second involving a cyclist in the Hutt Valley yesterday.

A 61-year-old male cyclist died after falling into the path of a truck outside St Patrick's College in Silverstream, Upper Hutt, at 8.40am.

Police said it appeared the driver of a parked vehicle had opened his door, and the cyclist crashed into the door, falling into the path of a truck travelling in the same direction.

Lobby group Cycling Advocates' Network (CAN) chairman Robert Ibell said the two deaths showed that central and local government were not moving fast enough to make roads safer for cycling.

"Neither of these tragic deaths should have happened," Mr Ibell said.

"In the case of the Petone crash, continuing procrastination by Transit and buck-passing by several other authorities in the Wellington region have meant that the Ngauranga to Petone cycle track is still incomplete.

"Local cyclists have been asking for at least 14 years for something to be done on this route."

Mr Ibell said cyclists had no choice but to share the road space with high speed motor vehicles.

- NZPA

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