Motorists feared for their lives and one was seriously injured as two alleged bank robbers yesterday fled police and ploughed through lunchtime traffic on a busy Auckland motorway.
After the Pukekohe robbery two men were seen laughing as they hurtled around a Drury roundabout in a stolen BMW convertible followed closely by police. They then sped up the Southern Motorway, ploughing into a ute and leaving the driver, 57, with serious neck injuries.
Other motorists were forced to take evasive action to avoid being hit by the men, including a woman on her way to the Coromandel.
Her husband-to-be told her story: "She saw a vehicle being chased by about 11 patrol cars, when the vehicle lost control and flipped on the motorway barrier and came hurtling towards her.
"At this point she has literally closed her eyes and put her foot down ... She looked behind her and it hit a car behind her. It could've been very tragic."
The drama began at 11.57am when two partially disguised men entered the Pukekohe Westpac.
They were allegedly armed with a hammer and threatened staff in front of customers.
Up to 12 people, including staff, were inside the bank.
The men fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.
A member of the public chased them on foot and managed to tackle one man nearby, but he escaped and the pair were seen driving away in the stolen BMW.
A staff member of a neighbouring business to the bank said she understood a car driver tried to cut off the BMW as the robbers were fleeing while others tried to jump on the getaway vehicle.
Police spotted the BMW in central Drury, 15km away, following it around the roundabout at the intersection of Norrie Rd and Great South Rd twice.
Kevin Horne, who works at Premier Aluminium Joinery Limited near the roundabout, saw the high-speed convoy.
"The chase came through Drury with four cops ... The cops had lights on and sirens blaring," he said.
"What amazed us was that the BMW didn't hit anything going around the roundabout. The two occupants were laughing as they went past... "
The BMW then sped back towards the motorway, entering the northbound lane at Drury.
"The offending vehicle has then crashed into the rear of a Ford ute, driven by a member of the public, near the Papakura interchange. This collision has caused the BMW to flip and roll across the motorway," Superintendent John Tims said.
Mr Tims said the driver and passenger of the fleeing car were apprehended at the scene.
"An inspection of their car produced a weapon matching the description of the one used in the bank robbery, as well as the stolen cash."
The men, aged 25 and 32, suffered serious injuries.
All three, including the ute driver, remained in Middlemore Hospital last night.
Vanessa Hamlin saw police arrest one of the men.
"Police cuffed him, they led him across the road beside the crashed car," she said.
"The debris was on both sides of the motorway. It was pretty bad. The car was just munted."