Police have laid charges after the Maori King's younger son was involved in a boyracer crash from which witnesses say he was lucky to escape alive.
Residents who saw the wrecked Mitsubishi Lancer say they can't believe 16-year-old Korotangi Paki - who was yesterday identified by one of the King's representatives as the driver - survived.
The crash happened on a 50km/h stretch of Riverview Rd, which runs alongside the western bank of the Waikato River, parallel to State Highway 1.
One resident who called emergency services said he was watching television when he heard heavy engine noises about 9pm on Saturday.
"We heard the car come down and there was high revving - I mean really, really high revving.
"It was heading south, then all of a sudden we heard the tyres screeching and then bang."
The resident said he expected to find dead bodies. Five metres of skidmarks showed the path the car took before the driver's side slammed into the power pole.
He saw two "young boys" who had extricated themselves from the wreck.
"We went outside and the car was wrapped around the power pole. All I could think of was that they were very, very lucky. They could have ended up in the river."
Waikato police spokesman Andrew McAlley would not confirm the driver's identity, but said a car had been seized and a teenager had been arrested on charges including driving with sustained loss of traction and dangerous driving.
He had been referred to Youth Aid.
"I can confirm that a 16-year-old has been arrested on boyracer charges," Mr McAlley said. "He is thought to have been doing burnouts."
One of the King's spokesmen, Rahui Papa, confirmed to the Herald that Korotangi was driving the vehicle.
"He's doing well. He's alive and that's our main focus. There's some shock but he's not broken.
"When I see him, he's going to get a big clip on his ears."
Mr Papa would not be drawn on how the family were dealing with the teenager and the charges.
The resident said police turned up within two or three minutes of the crash but Korotangi's extended family got there faster.
"The word was out within 30 seconds - all the people who are connected to the Maori King were there."
The accident did not surprise him, as Riverview Rd's speed limit was constantly broken by "hoons" who used it as a high-speed motorway, he said.
Work to stabilise the power pole was not finished yesterday.
Residents said the lines were hanging so low on Saturday night that trucks could not pass under them.
King Tuheitia and his wife, Te Atawhai Paki, were guests yesterday at Destiny Church's annual conference at its Mt Wellington headquarters.
Mr Papa said other tribal members found out about the accident as they travelled from Huntly in a bus yesterday morning to support the King.
Korotangi is a student at Huntly's Te Wharekura o Rakaumanga, New Zealand's largest kura kaupapa Maori school, and is the middle of the King's three children.
The accident happened about 5km from where a 33-year-old Hamilton mother died after her BMW crossed the centre line on Sunday last week.
Yesterday, the Transport Agency started a campaign to improve the poor road safety record of teenage drivers.
"Road crashes are the single biggest killer of 15- to 19-year-old New Zealanders, and our teen crash rates are among the worst in the developed world - that's a situation no one should accept," said the agency's national manager of road user behaviour, Michael Cummins.
New Zealand has the highest road death rate in the OECD for 15- to 17-year-olds, and the fourth highest road death rate for 18- to 20-year-olds.
The campaign will provide advice and free tools via a website - www.safeteendriver.co.nz - aimed at helping parents to stay actively involved in teens' driving.
Research shows youth drivers are most at risk of having a serious crash in the first six to 12 months of driving solo on a restricted licence.
Each year for the past five years, about 1300 crashes resulting in injury or death have involved teen drivers on restricted licences.
- Additional reporting: NZPA