A witness to a fatal police pursuit in New Plymouth early this morning has described hearing sirens and roaring engines before the vehicles flew past his house.

The witness was at home on Carrington St when he heard sirens approaching from the city.

"I heard the sirens for a good couple of minutes and went to take my dog outside to the toilet.

Next minute I could hear the sirens getting closer and closer and they ripped straight past my house," he said.

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"They were caning it. I reckon they would have been in excess of 100km/h.

"I was waiting for them to slide out because I could hear the motors coming for it.

He said once the car went through the roundabout, he heard tyres screeching.

"I thought I would hear a massive bang, but I didn't really hear anything.

"It is only about 500m to the roundabout so I was very close to where the crash happened."

Police have revealed a car involved in the crash bore licence plates which had been stolen from a vehicle in Napier.

"The BMW at this stage does not appear to have been registered," Superintendent Sue Schwalger, Central District Commander, said at a press conference In Palmerston North this morning.

"Through our inquiries today, we have identified that the licence plates attached to the BMW had been stolen from a vehicle in Napier yesterday," she said

"The BMW at this stage does not appear to have been registered."

Emergency workers at the scene of the crash on Tarahua Rd. Photo / Abe Leach
Emergency workers at the scene of the crash on Tarahua Rd. Photo / Abe Leach

She said the events unfolded shortly after 12.30am, when the driver of a BMW hatchback drove past a police dog patrol at high speed on Junction St in New Plymouth.

"The police vehicle turned around and indicated for the BMW to stop, using its lights and sirens, " she said.

When the vehicle failed to stop, a pursuit was initiated.

Schwalger said the pursuit lasted "a few minutes" before the BMW stopped suddenly and appeared to reverse and collide with the police vehicle.

"This disabled the police vehicle, and the pursuit was called off," she said.

The driver of the BMW drove away at speed, and was found several minutes later by another patrol car, crashed into a power pole on Tarahua Rd.

Schwalger said power lines were brought down by the impact.

"When it was safe to approach, it was discovered that the sole occupant of the vehicle was deceased," she said.

The road conditions at the scene of the crash were described as wet and greasy.

Schwalger said a number of investigations are underway.

"There is a Police Serious Crash investigation to establish the circumstances of the crash, as well as an internal police investigation. The Independent Police Conduct Authority has also been notified."

Schwalger offered her condolences to the family of the driver who died at the scene.

"The last thing any police officer wants to have happen when they are on shift is for any incident to end in a fatality.

"However, it is a sad fact that sometimes they do."

Schwalger said officers always assessed the risk of whether or not to pursue a driver who fails to stop for police, and continued to monitor risk factors throughout.

"We take these decisions very seriously, and need to maintain a balance between ensuring public safety, and upholding the law."

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