A man is dead and two women are in hospital after a car fleeing police crashed into a tree in South Auckland this morning.

Counties Manukau Inspector Dave Simpson confirmed police were trying to stop a stolen vehicle on Bairds Rd, Otara just before 6am when it fled from police and crashed into a tree about four minutes later.

Police stand up on fatal Otara crash this morning.

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Sunday, 8 October 2017

The male driver died at the scene and two female passengers were taken to hospital, one in a serious condition and the other with moderate injuries.

Three fire engines and multiple police cars surround the site of the crash. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Three fire engines and multiple police cars surround the site of the crash. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Bairds Rd resident Alapati Scanlan said he was walking his partner to the bus stop when he saw a vehicle being chased by police.

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He said a police car was following close behind the fast moving fleeing vehicle when it hit the kerb and drove into a tree.

He said he was scared and shocked at seeing the incident but didn't approach the vehicle to help because police wouldn't allow him to.

Senior Sergeant Amber Stobie said police spotted the stolen vehicle at 5.56am at the intersection of Bairds Rd and East Tamaki Rd.

"The vehicle fled from police and at about 6am it has collided with a tree on Bairds Rd.

"Unfortunately the male driver has died and two female passengers have been taken to Middlemore Hospital with serious and life threatening injuries."

Stobie said fleeing driver incidents "are incredibly tragic for everyone that is involved. The last thing our officers want when they come to work is to be involved in something like this."

The vehicle had previously been stolen from Takanini, she said.

The dead man's body was removed from the vehicle and taken away in a hearse shortly after 9am. A tow truck removed the car from the crash scene shortly afterwards.

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A resident who lives across the road from the incident said he was woken by a big bang.

He said he walked out to the road to see what had happened and was saddened by what he saw.

"I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to go near the car," he said.

Simpson said the accident will now be referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority. Simpson said police were also conducting its own investigation.

The road remained closed and was not expected to reopen until 11am. Diversions were in place and motorists were asked to avoid the area if possible.

He said this morning's death was a tragedy for everyone involved.

The officers involved in the crash were being provided with welfare and supported by their colleagues.

Simpson said it demonstrated the tragic consequences which could happen if a driver chose not to stop for police.

Police and firefighters had responded to reports that three people were trapped in the car.

Multiple police cars surrounded the site of the crash.

Groups of residents were standing on either side of the road looking on at the activity.

One resident said she heard a car chase before everything went quiet.

Part of a blue sedan, what appears to be a bonnet or bumper, can be seen crumpled on the side walk. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Part of a blue sedan, what appears to be a bonnet or bumper, can be seen crumpled on the side walk. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Soon after the crash part of a blue sedan, what appears to be a bonnet or bumper, can be seen crumpled on the side walk.

The car could be seen mounted on the sidewalk, positioned behind a fallen tree. Both the car and tree are completely obstructing the sidewalk.

The rear of the blue sedan appeared to be slightly elevated off the side walk. The roof has been removed.

Bairds Rd is expected to remain closed till 11am between the intersections of Clayton Ave and Everitt Rd.

It's been a grim 24 hours on the country's roads with three horror crashes claiming five lives and leaving another victim fighting for their life.

In the deadliest accident three people were killed when two cars crashed north of Winton in Southland last night.

State Highway 6 was left closed most of the night while the Serious Crash Unit investigated the cause of the collision.

Earlier in the afternoon two people died in a two-car crash north of Te Kuiti and two others were taken to hospital.

Later in the afternoon a person was trapped in a three-car smash in Warkworth.

The injured motorist was flown to hospital in a rescue helicopter in a critical condition and others were treated by ambulance at the scene.

And just before 6am a motorcyclist was injured in a serious crash in Motueka.