The grieving grandmother of a 15-year-old boy killed in a police chase says she was the one who called police before he died.

An investigation into the fatal police pursuit last May has found that police should not have tried to stop or pursue the car.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority investigation took place after Ihaia Maxwell, 15, and Meadow James, 12, died after a police chase near Palmerston North on May 28, 2018.

Meadow was the front seat passenger of a stolen Subaru that slid into a ditch and hit a power pole at about 1.30pm as it fled police.


She died at the scene.

Ihaia, the 15-year-old driver, later died in hospital. Another passenger, aged 16, was seriously injured.

Ihaia's grandmother Sandra Carroll told Newshub she called police the night he died when she saw him driving a blue vehicle.

She thought she was doing the right thing. She believed police should not have chased the car as it was driven by a 15-year-old and carrying other teenagers.

"It's a recipe for tragedy to chase a car full of teenagers," she told Newshub. "There's got to be a better way to do it.

"I love my grandson and miss my grandson. I wish things could be different."

A decision released today explains that the subsequent review found that "a police officer should not have tried to stop or pursue a car thought to contain young people".

The report states that at about 12.49pm that day, police were informed that Ihaia, driving a blue car, had picked up some girls from the Highbury Whānau Centre.


The witness provided the car's registration details and advised that it was probably stolen.

An officer decided to go out and look for the car. He was aware that Ihaia was known to steal cars, had a number of current charges outstanding, and had breached conditions of his electronic bail.

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

The officer rang three other officers, including a Youth Aid officer, to ensure they were aware of the incident.

At about 1.29pm, the officer spotted the car in a residential street, but could not positively identify the people inside.

The driver of the car immediately accelerated away. The officer signalled the driver to stop, then began to pursue it along Monrad St and on to Pioneer Highway.

The car continued to accelerate along Pioneer Highway for approximately 2.5km before disappearing around a slight bend.

When the officer rounded the bend several seconds later, he saw that the car had crashed. The officer and bystanders assisted the occupants.

The authority found that the officer did not make appropriate risk assessments before signalling the driver to stop, commencing the pursuit or continuing to pursue the car.

It was highly likely that the driver was Ihaia, who was known to flee and was very motivated to avoid being taken into custody. It was also likely that there were other young people in the car.

Ihaia posed a significant risk to himself and others in a pursuit situation. Without appropriate resources or planning in place, the risks of a pursuit clearly outweighed the need to urgently apprehend him and recover stolen property, the report said.

Meadow James, 12, was killed in a crash in a police pursuit in Palmerston North. Photo / Supplied
Meadow James, 12, was killed in a crash in a police pursuit in Palmerston North. Photo / Supplied

Authority chairman, Judge Colin Doherty, said the results of the review "concluded that a risk-averse approach to fleeing driver events needs to be embedded into staff mindset when it comes to managing fleeing driver events".

"In the authority's view, this incident demonstrates this very point. If the officer's training and consequent approach had been risk-averse, this outcome might have been avoided."

Police acknowledged the findings and said this was a tragic event with an outcome no-one wanted.

Acting Central District Commander Inspector Chris de Wattigna said police continued to offer their sympathies to the families of those killed and injured in the crash.

"The decision whether or not to pursue a fleeing driver is one of the most serious decisions our staff face on the frontline," he said.

"Police come to work to keep people safe. It is devastating when someone dies because they chose not to stop."

De Wattigna said the officer involved in this incident had been given further training and guidance.

Following the joint review by the IPCA and Police into police's management of fleeing drivers, a piece of work has also been commissioned to research motivations of the most vulnerable groups in our communities; young people, people with mental health needs, and those impaired by drugs or alcohol.

"If we can understand what motivates them to flee, we can work with our partner agencies to try to prevent the behaviour in the first place," de Wattigna said.

"I want to reach out to all drivers who think that fleeing from police is an option and say – don't do it.

"It is not worth the risk to you, your family, or our communities."

Parents of victims question policy:

Meadow's mother Rachel James earlier told the Herald she was disgusted police could pursue all drivers, regardless of age.

"I think there are circumstances in which they should be able to but there are also instances in which they should not," she said.

"Teens, especially those who are not even old enough to sit a New Zealand licence, do not think of the consequences at the time for themselves or those that could be hurt as a direct consequence of their actions.

"I do think laws need to change in relation to where, when and who they can chase."

James thought her daughter had been let down by police protocol and a lack of early intervention.

"Children like ours and many others in NZ, that are already known to police, would benefit from police supporting their families and intervention at an earlier stage when the early signs are there," she said.

"I cannot talk for why others are involved in these situations but I do believe if we had better laws and support many of these situations could be avoided."