Police pursuit ruling: Teen caused fatal crash

By Brendan Manning

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

An 18-year-old man who stole a car and was seen overtaking dangerously before being pursued by police late last year caused the tragic accident that killed him, an independent watchdog has found.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority today released its report into the death of James Dean Miles following a police pursuit north of Katikati a year ago.

Police followed all relevant policy and acted appropriately during the pursuit, the watchdog found.

On November 12, 2012 police received a report that a Hyundai hatchback had dangerously overtaken a truck and trailer unit on State Highway 2 north of Waihi.

A police officer left Waihi police station and attempted to catch up with the car.

The officer was also advised the car was stolen. A second officer was sent from Katikati to assist.

After following Mr Miles, who was at this time driving normally in a line of traffic, the second officer attempted to catch up to Mr Miles, the report said.

As the officer approached the top of Kauri Point Road he saw the Hyundai, approximately 150 metres ahead, accelerate in an effort to evade apprehension.

The pursuit then began.

The officer advised police communications that the Hyundai had failed to stop and after temporarily losing sight of the vehicle, the officer saw Mr Miles overtake a mobile home travelling down Young's Hill before overtaking a second vehicle.

In an interview with the authority, the officer said that as he tried to catch up to the stolen vehicle there was moderate traffic, good visibility and his speed was no more than 110-130km/h in a 100km/h speed zone due to the slightly wet road conditions. He also said he had activated his patrol car's lights and sirens.

Shortly after, the officer reported that the Hyundai had collided with an oncoming vehicle. The officer called for fire and ambulance units but Mr Miles died at the scene.

The driver of the oncoming car suffered multiple fractures to his right leg as well as cuts to his left leg and head.

Witnesses told police Mr Miles' vehicle had crossed into the oncoming lane moments before the collision.

Other witnesses said that before police had caught up with Mr Miles earlier, he was travelling at excessive speed, following other vehicles dangerously closely, and overtaking on blind corners and into oncoming traffic.

IPCA chairman Sir David Carruthers said the short pursuit covered approximately 1.3 kilometres and lasted 42 seconds.

"During that time police involved complied with policy in commencing the pursuit. They properly assessed the risks involved during the pursuit, and informed the Police Communications Centre of their assessments.

"It was a tragic incident caused by the actions of Mr Miles, an unlicensed driver at the time of the incident that resulted in his death and caused injury to others."

The authority found no breach of police policy and made no recommendations but said it was continuing to work with police in a revision of policies around pursuits.

- APNZ

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