The children of Carmen Marie Yanko - the innocent victim who died when a driver fleeing from police crashed into her car - have spoken about their heartbreak.

Yanko was believed to be travelling to a Sunday market, where she operated a stall, when she was killed. It is understood the 53-year-old was also a cancer survivor.

Her children say they are "heartbroken and reeling from this senseless tragedy that occurred early yesterday morning".

"She lived to be a mother and was there for us always," they said.

Advertisement

"Carmen loved and lived fiercely and will be terribly missed by her family and friends."

Carmen Yanko was the innocent victim of a police pursuit crash. Photo / Supplied
Carmen Yanko was the innocent victim of a police pursuit crash. Photo / Supplied

One online tribute said she was "taken because some idiots think they're above the law".

Messages of love and support are being shared online for the family of the innocent woman, who was killed near Nelson yesterday when a car feeling police crashed into her vehicle.

One man sent his deepest condolences to Yanko's family saying he was "so sorry to hear this news", another said "thinking of you mate".

Another message written on a relative's Facebook page said "I feel for you so much. All my love to you and your family."

Carmen Marie Yanko died after her car was hit by a man fleeing police. Photo / Facebook
Carmen Marie Yanko died after her car was hit by a man fleeing police. Photo / Facebook

Another tribute described the 53-year-old as a "special lady" who always made people feel welcome in her home.

The two occupants of the car fleeing from police were 25-year-old Johnathan Tairakena and 33-year-old Phillip Jamie Stretch.

Tairakena's brother Fabian said he was in "so much shock" at the death.

Advertisement

"Why....brother why tho.....brother my baby brother.....I just I'm in so much shock," Fabian said.

"I don't understand how he got into this situation."

Passenger had previous conviction for killer driving

Johnathan Tairakena, 25, was the driver of the vehicle being pursued by police.
Johnathan Tairakena, 25, was the driver of the vehicle being pursued by police.

The vehicle driven by Johnathan Tairakena had led police on a 6km pursuit when they crashed into Yanko's car.

Stretch, a passenger in the car, had a previous conviction for killing someone in a vehicle accident.

Stretch was sentenced to 18 months in jail for killing a passenger in a 2001 crash.

Stretch was 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 once worked 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."