Grieving friends and family members of a 12-year-old girl killed in a police-pursuit crash yesterday have spoken of their love and heartbreak.

Meadow James was the front-seat passenger of a stolen Subaru that slid into a ditch and hit a power pole near Palmerston North about 1.30pm as the car fled police.

She was killed at the scene.

Meadow James died at the scene.
Meadow James died at the scene.

The 15-year-old driver, Ihaia Maxwell, later died in hospital.


Another female passenger, 15, is in a stable condition after receiving serious injuries in the crash, which happened about 90 seconds after a police officer tried to pull the vehicle over, and gave chase.

Police in the area had been warned to look out for a stolen vehicle that was possibly being driven by Ihaia, who was in breach of his bail conditions.

Ihaia's grandparents, Dennis and Kat Maxwell, told 1 News about their much-loved grandson who had a supportive whanau, but who had chosen the wrong path.

"Definitely full of life, had a lot of potential as you know young kids do. It's just heartbreaking that he went down the road he did go down. We know it's been quite difficult for his parents, but you know he had a pretty supportive whanau and, you know things just happen, and this is the end of the unfortunate events," Kat said.

The 15-year-old driver, Ihaia Maxwell, later died in hospital.
The 15-year-old driver, Ihaia Maxwell, later died in hospital.

Dennis said he did not blame the police for the crash or pursuing the car. "That's their job."

"It's our moko and we love him but we can't turn back the time. We just can't."

Friends and relatives have shared their grief today in emotional tributes posted on social media.

Meadows' distraught mother Rachel James told 1 News she was still stunned and there was nothing she could do.


"I'm still stunned myself for me it's the second time round. I've already lost a child."

Fighting back tears, James said she thought her daughter had gone to her course and it was only when she returned home from work to find she had got in the car with Ihaia.

"I play back what I could have changed. I could have done better, but it's happened and I can't do anything.

"At the end of the day it's happened and there is nothing we can do to change it. I don't blame anyone. I don't blame the family of the boy who was driving. It's just, you know, they never wanted for their to son to die either. It's just one of those things that has happened and now we have to accept it."

Rachel said she had already spent the past four years going over what could have happened differently when her son Leif died and it had not helped.

Rebecca James said her sister was already beating herself up and did not need the negative comments the family had been receiving on social media about the crash.

"As a parent of someone who has lost a child who saying she could have done better, she is beating herself up already..."

Meadow's sister's online tribute says: "Always you sista ... say hi to Bruv for me."

A woman who said she was one of Meadow's "many aunties" posted a long message on Facebook about the incident.

"One of these many kids, is my niece ... day to day, I used to tell her and her older sister ... not to be so hood, not to hang around bad influences and not to do stupid shit like this for example.

"You never listened and now look where you are Meds ... look how many of us you're putting through heartbreak right now. Look how much of our family you're about to bring together to send you off ... this is not the way I imagined to see everyone again ... especially to see my 12-year-old niece lying in her coffin."

The car is recovered after crashing on Pioneer Highway (SH26) on Longburn.Photo / Merania Karauria
The car is recovered after crashing on Pioneer Highway (SH26) on Longburn.Photo / Merania Karauria

Another woman said Meadow was "taken way too young".

"It saddens me that some people don't realise their influence on others. The world hasn't seen enough of you! 12 years of having your smiles and laughs. 12 years too short."

One person who said she was a friend of both Meadow and Ihaia said she would cherish every memory made with both of them.

Another woman wrote: "R.i.p nef ihaia."

District commander Superintendent Sue Schwalger said yesterday an officer saw the wanted Subaru being driven on Monrad St about 1.30pm.

"Police signalled for the vehicle to pull over and the driver failed to stop.

"The Subaru continued driving, travelling on to Pioneer Highway and crashed into a ditch, hitting a power pole at the intersection of Shirriffs Rd."

The tragedy comes less than five years after Meadow's brother, Leif James, died in hauntingly similar circumstances.

Merry Christmas💕 R.I.P you were gone so early and in a tragic way😔💕 Its sad that i didnt get to see you as much as i...

Posted by Meadow James on Saturday, 24 December 2016

A coroner's report says the brother was 18 when he died in October 2013 after getting into the car which was being driven by a friend.

A sighting of the stolen car sparked the chase which lasted 80 seconds before the driver lost control on a corner and slid into the path of an oncoming ute, fatally injuring the 18-year-old.

The car was going about 135km/h in an 80km/h zone when it spun out.

The teenager died in hospital the day after the crash.

Meadow James' Facebook page shows a tribute to her brother.

"R.I.P you were gone so early and in a tragic way," she wrote.

"It's sad that I didn't get to see you as much as I could've but then again you were locked up nearly all the time. I still remember when you yous (sic) to call me fat ass and push me off the couch. I hope you're having fun and i love youuu."

She also posted a tribute to Morocco Tai, the 15-year-old who died in a stolen car during a police pursuit in Auckland in October last year.