Police chase 'dangerous'

By Amy McGillivray, Joseph Aldridge

The pursued young men were fatally injured when the stolen vehicle they were in crashed into this tree in Te Puke. Picture / APN
The pursued young men were fatally injured when the stolen vehicle they were in crashed into this tree in Te Puke. Picture / APN

Police have been heavily criticised for failing to abandon a pursuit that endangered the public and culminated in the deaths of two young men.

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report, released yesterday, said Tauranga police should have abandoned the high-speed chase before it ended in the deaths of Harley Wilson and Michael Keepa.

The pair died soon after the stolen vehicle they were in slid down a bank and crashed into a tree in Te Puke in October 2010.

The Toyota Hilux 4x4 was travelling at about 110km/h in a 50km/h zone when the driver lost control.

Police, who had been chasing the vehicle for about 17 minutes, had just pulled out of the pursuit when the accident happened.

The pursuit started just after 5am when the Hilux tried to avoid a police breath-test check in Mt Maunganui. It eventually involved eight police officers in four vehicles, and reached 160km/h.

At one stage officers tried to use road spikes to stop the fleeing vehiclebut the driver managed to swerve around them.

Judge Sir David Carruthers concluded that while police were justified in pursuing the Hilux initially, they should have called off the pursuit on several occasions because of the unacceptably high speed.

"The sustained high speeds reached by the pursuing officers were dangerous to the public, the occupants of the Toyota 4x4 and the officers themselves," he concluded.

Mr Wilson showed no intention of stopping and was driving "far in excess of the posted speed limit".

Mr Keepa's grandmother, Lee Keepa, said she did not believe police should engage in pursuits.

"The boys had done wrong but I don't believe in the chase. I know the kids these days are cheeky and arrogant but the police go fast, the kids go faster. Perhaps there is another way."

Mrs Keepa, who raised her grandson for most of his life, is happy with the police response.

"I'm not blaming the police. By the look of it officers will all be spoken to ... It doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, it won't bring him back."

- APN

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