Two teenage boys who died when the stolen car they were in crashed during a police chase had a troubled history and were known to police.
Hoani Wiremu Korewha, 15, and Pacer Willacy-Scott, 15, died after fleeing from police in a stolen car at dangerously high speeds, crashing into a pole in Masterton's main street, Queen St, about 2.15am yesterday.
They had got into "a lot of trouble in their lives" but that didn't take away from the "absolute tragedy to the parents", said South Wairarapa Mayor Adrienne Staples.
"These kids have been known to authorities for quite some time and there's been an awful lot of work done in Featherston for providing opportunities for troubled teens over the last few months, and they were in those programmes," Ms Staples said.
"I don't know what else actually can be done."
The Honda Civic the teenagers were in was travelling so fast, video footage of the incident showed it sent sparks flying before the collision.
Two other occupants, also aged 14 or 15, are in stable condition at Wairarapa Hospital.
It has also been revealed the car they were in was stolen on Saturday night from a local baker and volunteer fireman who had previously employed one of the youths.
The car belonged to Featherston man Martin Grice, who runs The Village Baker in the town.
The Herald understands he had previously employed one of the teens who died in the crash.
Mr Grice is also a volunteer fireman for the Featherston Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Alan Maxwell, co-ordinator of Wairarapa Anglican Youth (WAY), said three of the four teens in the car had attended the Featherston-based group he founded nine months ago to help with troubled youths. They had helped with working bees, he said.
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 incident has sparked debate online about the boys' actions and the police response - some saying the teens were old enough to know better and should have stopped for police, others saying the deaths were a tragedy and people should respect their grieving families.
The debate on the Herald Facebook page has garnered more than 250 comments.
Colleen Evans-Mcleod said: "They shouldnt have stolen the car in the first place and bad decision of the driver of the car to flee. Police doing there job [sic]. The kids broke the law in the first place sad for the families but at that age the know right from wrong and actions have consequences lets hope there mates learn from this sad outcome [sic]."
Sarah Warfield agreed: "They fled the police to try and evade the consequences. They knew they were in the wrong and carried on anyway. At 15, you don't need your parents to tell you that stealing, driving illegally, fleeing the police and putting others in danger us wrong. Yes, it is a sad and difficult time for their family, but this tragedy was preventable and that onus is still on them."
However, Sarah B Tora said some of the opinions were "disgusting".
"Obviously these kids had issues but you don't know what was going on in their lives...they made a big mistake and paid with their lives...regardless of their messed up actions the loss will be felt by those who love them and don't deserve to read the hateful judgmental comments."
Dani Patterson-Gibson posted: "Man, I hope all these people making nasty comments have perfect kids or are perfect themselves.
"I was a total nightmare when I was 15, no one could control me, I was out stealing cars and getting drunk, ended up having a baby and a drug problem at that age too.. no one could help me.. not even my parents and grandparents could help me, I just did not care... I had to help myself, took a few years of making mistakes but hey I got here and with my life too... and now I have my own teen who's my hero, an amazing kid.. as well as 3 others and happily married.
"We all make mistakes, it's whether we can learn from them that matters. Hard lesson to learn when it's your life that pays the ultimate price.. tragic ending to 2 very short lives.. who knows what could have been in their later years... just so sad."
Moana N Gareth also had a personal story to tell: "I knew a kid who was 15 and stole a car then crashed it... he had snuck out while his parents were asleep and they were brilliant parents... he got bored or dared or god knows... he lived to tell the tale and became an outstanding law abiding man that served our country. So it is a loss... and it is sad... and now it's a lesson for the friends..."
Richard Morgan Gwilt said hopefully other teenagers would learn from the boys' mistakes.
"I'm sorry. Death is a really harsh outcome. Now those you left behind have to do the suffering. Life is like that - you may get a second chance. But then again you may not. The value here would be if others didn't go down the same road, because they saw what happened to you. And what about the police officers? They wake up the next morning and remember they did not manage to stop these young fellas before it was too late."
Meanwhile, tributes to the two boys have been posted online.
R2R, Rangatahi to Rangatira Featherston youth group, which all four boys are believed to have attended posted: "We have lost some valuable friends ... Rest in peace boys, I hope you are flying high up in the sky."
A friend of Hoani's posted: "Rest solid bruvas! We lost a beautiful thuggn soul and Hoani gained his angel wings. Our love for you will never change. Your name will forever ride [sic]."
Another friend said: "It should of never ended like this ma bruva love you endlessly. Forever in my heart ma little bruva [sic]."
A friend of Pacer's said the teen always made things much more enjoyable.
"Words can't even explain how I'm feeling right now ... I don't want to believe it."
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.
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."
The Independent Police Conduct Authority is investigating both crashes.