The passenger in the car being pursued by police that caused a triple fatal crash near Nelson had a previous conviction for killing someone in a vehicle accident.

Philip Stretch, aged in his 30s, was a passenger in the car being pursued by police yesterday, police confirmed. Stretch was jailed for 18 months for killing a passenger in a 2001 crash. Stretch was aged 17 at the time and was drunk when the crash happened.

Stretch pleaded guilty to 14 charges – five of the charges, including drink-driving causing death, resulted from the crash that killed Jamie Kelly, 19.

Kelly was one of four passengers in the car, driven by Stretch, who crashed after losing control on a bend at Mariri, near Motueka, on May 31, 2001, Fairfax reported.


Police said Stretch was driving at speeds of up to 140km/h. He had been drinking bourbon and was six times the legal alcohol limit.

Stretch was the passenger in the car yesterday being driven by Johnathan Tairakena - a disqualified driver.

Tairakena has previous convictions for burglary and theft, including stealing cash from a McDonald's charity donation tin.

Tairakena used to be an employee for Talley's Group Ltd. He left the job about two or three years ago, a spokeswoman for the company said.

Stretch and Tairakena were both killed and the innocent occupant of the car their vehicle collided with also died early yesterday.

Police had been chasing the vehicle for 6km and the pursuit had not been called off when the collision happened on State Highway 6 near Clover Rd at about 5.40am.

Police have confirmed they tried to stop a vehicle on nearby Gladstone Rd.

"The car failed to stop and fled towards State Highway 6, overtaking a truck and moving on to the wrong side of the road where it crashed into another vehicle that was travelling north," Superintendent Mike Johnson said.


"Tragically three people have died as a result, two of the deceased were from the fleeing vehicle and the third person was an innocent member of the public.

"An outcome like this is the last thing police want to see."

Fresh call to review police pursuit policy

The Government should review its police pursuit policy and consider the merits of an outright ban, the Automobile Association says.

The call follows the deaths of three people in a high speed chase in the Tasman district yesterday - part of a deadly weekend on the country's roads that claimed eight lives.

AA motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said one-in-five police pursuits ended in crashes. Banning pursuits was "something we should look at and see how it is working in other conditions".

Similar measures were already in place in Queensland, except where the driver was involved in a murder or considered an imminent threat to life.

His comment drew qualified support last night from the Police Association, which told the Herald "everything should be on the table" - though added any changes shouldn't be a knee-jerk reaction to tragic events.

Association president Chris Cahill said about 3500 pursuits took place last year. If they had not occurred there would be many dangerous drivers still on the road, he said.

The penalty for fleeing should be an "aggravating factor" that made people say "this is not worth it".

"It would have an effect on adult offenders, but juvenile offenders it can be a bit more complex.

"The tragedy is what these families lost today, our officers are totally traumatised about what they have had to go through. It is needless.

"They are very upset by it and traumatised as you can understand."

Police Minister Stuart Nash said while he could not comment on the AA's request, he had asked for an update on a review into police chases which commenced in July.

The review followed a spate of pursuit crashes and deaths last year.

"Police are currently working closely with the Independent Police Conduct Authority [IPCA] to review their policies and practices around these unpredictable events and I have asked for an update on progress in this review which is due to be completed later this year," Nash said.

The joint evaluation is headed by New Zealand Police and the IPCA and would look into all pursuits notified to the authority, covering about 75 chases.

"Fleeing drivers are always a highly challenging law and order event for police," Nash said.

"Currently they deal with about 300 of these complex situations every month."