A small Samoan church congregation believe it's a miracle no one was hit today when a car ploughed through their car park and crashed into the church building.
A 57-year-old man died in the crash, which happened just before 2.30pm on the corner of Ormiston Rd and Preston Rd. The intersection in the Auckland suburb of Otara is a notorious crash site.
Police had spotted the man driving erratically and had begun a chase when he failed to stop for them, Inspector Shawn Rutene said.
"A short time later, the vehicle crashed into a building."
The driver may have suffered a medical condition, but officers were still investigating, Rutene said.
Six elderly men and women were inside the Joyful Christian Ministry church playing dominoes and cards when the car hurtled toward the glass doors of the room where they sat.
But the pastor's van, parked outside, appeared to have deflected the car, which continued up a ramp and launched several metres into the air, slammed into the second storey of the church's aluminium building and fell 3m on to the concrete.
At some point the car had spun 180 degrees. Part of the red tail light is still embedded high in the dented wall.
The car also hit a tow-truck on its way through the car park, shattering the front window.
Neighbour Ama Polevia, 24, heard sirens followed by a "massive bang". She ran out and saw the crumpled car, with a police car next to it. More police soon arrived.
There was blood on the ground and the driver wasn't moving, she said.
After trying to rouse the man, a policeman broke the back passenger window and they pulled the man out, she said. Fire and ambulance then arrived.
"The cops did CPR on him but they couldn't bring him back."
Missy Tusini, 28, heard a bang and looked out the window to see the grey car squashed between a skip and a forklift, facing out toward the road.
"It didn't make sense how it was placed. It was freaky. Weird things happen around here but not like this."
Pastor Vai Tuialii, 46, said the incident was very sad. But he thanked God that none of his congregation had been hurt.
He had pieced together what happened after talking to his church members.
"It's so lucky. If my car weren't here it might have gone straight into the front room."
He says it's also "a blessing" that the car park was empty - it's normally filled with church kids playing and riding bikes.
"There were kids here in the morning, aged maybe 6 to 9 years old, but they had left about midday."
He said he and church members often walked around and prayed over the car park.
"I'm so thankful. It just shows the power of prayer."
DANGEROUS CRASH SITE
The crash happened at the intersection of Ormiston and Preston Rds, part of a double-T junction with East Tamaki Rd. The intersection was slated to be changed into a normal X junction several years ago.
The changes would simplify a messy intersection which locals say encourages dangerous driving and red-light running and causes major congestion.
Fairfax has reported that the roadworks stalled after a local business objected to the changes through the Environment Court.
Both Ama Polevia and Missy Tusini said the Preston-Ormiston intersection was extremely dangerous. They don't allow their young children to play outside for fear they will be hit by errant drivers.
The concrete wall next to their house had been hit at least once since she had moved in, Tusini said.
The Ormiston Rd police station is 500m from the intersection. Tusini said speeding police cars with sirens sounding could often be seen "drifting" around the corner of Ormiston and Preston as they set out on jobs.
Polevia said there was a "near miss" at the intersection every day.
A police car from the station was involved in a fatal crash on Ormiston Rd on August 22, 2012.
Police had been called to a burglary nearby and were headed for the Preston Rd intersection when a car turned into their path. Passenger Liku Onesi was killed in the crash.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) determined the police, who had turned on their lights and sirens, were not to blame for the accident.