Youth worker devastated ... and angry too

By Nathan Crombie, Catherine Gaffaney

Youth worker wants community to help end police pursuit fatalities.
The stolen car the teenagers were in crashed into a pole in the Masterton central business district early yesterday. Photo / NZ Police
The stolen car the teenagers were in crashed into a pole in the Masterton central business district early yesterday. Photo / NZ Police

A youth leader says he's devastated the lives of two "bored" teenagers who were too young to hold drivers' licences ended after the stolen car they were in fled from police at dangerously high speeds and crashed.

The Honda Civic Hoani Korewha and Pacer Willacy-Scott were in with two others - all aged 14 or 15 - was going so fast, video footage showed it sent sparks flying before it collided with a pole in Masterton about 2.15am yesterday.

The incident came only a week after the death of Eden Nathan, 16, in a similar accident in South Auckland. The 15-year-old driver of that car was also critically injured.

Alan Maxwell, co-ordinator of Wairarapa Anglican Youth (WAY), said of the latest crash that three of the four teens in the car had attended the group he had founded in Featherston nine months ago and had helped with working bees.

He had received messages throughout yesterday from other group leaders and community agencies "asking me what can they do to help" and he hoped there would be a combined community response.

"I'm devastated but more angry than anything else because the writing's on the wall when these kids have such limited choices and the community is so apathetic to it all," he said.

"The bottom line is they're just bored and if we don't give them things to do, they find stupid things to do and make stupid choices.

"At some point, as a community, we have to take responsibility otherwise these kids are not going to be the only ones [to die] this year.

"It's just such a waste."

The fact that we have more than 2000 fleeing-driver incidents every year suggests that the message is not getting through.Judith Collins, Police MinisterLast night, Mr Maxwell led a vigil at St John's Church in Featherston "for those who need comfort or wish to light a candle for our youth".

Police Minister Judith Collins said the incidents showed young people needed to be reminded of the "absolute stupidity" of fleeing from officers.

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

"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."

In yesterday's chase, police tried to pull over the driver after recognising the vehicle as stolen and started a pursuit when it failed to stop.

They abandoned the chase when it became apparent the driver was going to continue at high speeds through Masterton's town centre. A short time later, the car crashed.

Pacer Willacy-Scott's grandfather Roger Scott shared his sorrow on Facebook at the "untimely" death. "Our thoughts and memories will always be treasured and we will miss you dearly. Love Nana and Grandad."

A friend described Hoani Korewha as someone who was always happy. "It's going to be weird not hearing from my lil homie, Hoani."

The surviving two occupants of the vehicle were last night in a stable condition in Masterton Hospital.

Detective Senior Sergeant Barry Bysouth said he had "absolute confidence" his staff had acted appropriately and identified the danger quickly.

"My officers disengaged the pursuit and pulled over ... This did not deter the driver of the vehicle, who continued to drive at very high speed ... CCTV gives us a clear picture of the speed of the vehicle travelling through the business district and the sparks from underneath this vehicle after driving across the speed bumps."

He urged drivers not to flee from the police. "Please stop ... Nothing is worth this tragic loss of life."

The Independent Police Conduct Authority is investigating.

Labour's police spokesman, Stuart 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.

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

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the last thing police wanted was for a pursuit to end in tragedy.

- NZ Herald

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