Catherine Gaffaney is a general reporter based in Auckland.

Tributes flow for teens killed in crash following police pursuit

Hoani Korewha (left) and Pacer Willacy-Scott (right), died in Masterton after a short police pursuit. Photo / Facebook
Hoani Korewha (left) and Pacer Willacy-Scott (right), died in Masterton after a short police pursuit. Photo / Facebook

The Grandfather of one of the teens killed following a police pursuit this morning has shared his sorrow at the "untimely" death of his grandson.

Roger Scott's grandson Pacer Willacy-Scott died alongside fellow Wairarapa teenager Hoani Korewha in the early hours of this morning in Masterton.

Mr Scott wrote on Facebook: "Our thoughts and memories will always be treasured and we will miss you dearly, Love Nana and Granddad."

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Police said the teens were aged 14 or 15. The legal age in New Zealand to apply for a learner's licence is 16.

A friend has also paid tribute to Hoani, saying he always made him laugh.

"When I was with him, he was always happy, never down," the friend said.

"We used to always kick it when he came to Upper Hutt.

"It's going to be weird not hearing from my lil homie, Hoani ... Rest in peace."

People "dying needlessly on our roads"

Young people need to be reminded of the "absolute stupidity" and potentially devastating consequences of fleeing police, Police Minister Judith Collins says.

Her comments follow the deaths of three teenagers after two separate police pursuits in the past week.

Police attempted to pull over the driver of the stolen Honda Civic about 2.15am. Police began a pursuit when it failed to stop but abandoned it almost immediately due to the dangerous driving of the fleeing driver.

A short time later, the still-speeding vehicle crashed into a light pole on the town's main street, Queen St. The other two teenage occupants of the vehicle, aged 14 or 15, are in stable condition at Masterton Hospital, a Wairarapa District Health Board spokeswoman said tonight.

In the early hours of last Sunday morning, 16-year-old girl Eden Nathan died and a 15-year-old girl was seriously injured in a crash in Mangere, South Auckland.

The girls were also in a stolen vehicle and were pursued for a short time after fleeing police. The pursuit was abandoned before the vehicle crashed.

Eden Nathan, 16, died in a car crash in Mangere after a police pursuit. Photo / Facebook
Eden Nathan, 16, died in a car crash in Mangere after a police pursuit. Photo / Facebook

"Nobody wants to see people dying needlessly on our roads and this is a devastating tragedy for the families of the young people who have lost their lives," Ms Collins said.

"We all need to do our part to prevent such needless carnage on our roads by talking to young people about the absolute stupidity of fleeing police and the potentially devastating consequences of doing so."

Young people weren't the only ones who fled police, however.

"What will prevent crashes like these happening is fleeing drivers not fleeing in the first place, or if they do flee, stopping," Ms Collins said.

"They are putting themselves and the public in extreme danger.

"The fact that we have more than 2000 fleeing driver incidents every year [with around 16 per cent of them ending in crashes] suggests that the message is not getting through.

"Police face a very difficult balance in protecting the public from dangerous drivers and protecting the fleeing drivers from themselves."

Policy around fleeing drivers had been extensively refined in the past 20 years, she said.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority is investigating both crashes.

The two teens were killed after their vehicle crashed into a light pole. Photo / Supplied via Facebook
The two teens were killed after their vehicle crashed into a light pole. Photo / Supplied via Facebook

'The absolute last thing police want is a pursuit to end in tragedy'

New Zealand Police Association president Greg O'Connor said it was difficult getting the message across that stopping for police was always the best thing to do.

"The absolute last thing police want is for a pursuit to end in tragedy," he said.

"In this morning's crash it appears police pulled out of the pursuit very quickly when it looked like it could become dangerous.

"A group of teens driving around at 2am in a stolen vehicle ... You wonder what messages they're listening to.

"Tragedies like this can sometimes be the best way to get through to people."

He has previously called fleeing drivers "an issue police forces and governments around the world are grappling with".

National road policing manager Superintendent Steve Greally said the danger of a chase was just not worth the potentially disastrous consequences, when it could all come down to a licence issue or something else very minor.

The recent fleeing driver incidents had led to the "needless deaths" of young people, who had a future, he said.

People still think they can get away with breaking the law - Labour

Labour's police spokesman Stuart Nash said the bottom line was some people still thought they could break the law and get away with it.

"In both cases, the teens have put their foot down ... "

"If police indicate to pull over, even in a stolen vehicle, it's going to be a lot worse if you don't, because when police catch up with you, you'll then also get charged with fleeing police; or in a small number of cases, it will end in tragedy."

He didn't think there needed to be a policy overhaul.

"Every time this happens there are calls for police to review their pursuit policies," he said.

"It might sound like I'm being callous but I don't think there needs to be a big overhaul [of the policies].

"This morning's crash was an absolute tragedy.

"It will be investigated but I think it will be found that police did everything they could have -- pursued when they needed to, pulled out when it seemed like it was going to become dangerous."

Mr Nash said there could perhaps be a new campaign encouraging people to pull over when indicated to, but he was unsure how effective it would be.

Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson said she extended condolences to the families of this morning's crash on behalf of the community.

"The loss of two young lives is a tragedy," she said. "That's really all I can say at this time."

- NZME.

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