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May 9 2013 - An independent investigation into three deaths and a serious injury following a Police pursuit of a fleeing car in Gisborne last year was released today.
Dylan James Kingi, 28, died when the car he was driving crashed on Nelson Road in Gisborne following a Police pursuit on Saturday 14 July 2012.
Two passengers – Peter John Bunyan, 27, and Holly Kay Gunn, 25 – also died at the scene. The third passenger, Claire Sophie Badger, then aged 25, was seriously injured in the crash.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today found that the commencement of the Police pursuit was justified but criticised some aspects of the pursuit, including that Police reached excessive speeds and did not fully comply with policy in some respects.
At about 9.40pm on 14 July 2012 a Police officer saw a Mitsubishi sedan driving at speed through suburban Gisborne. The officer turned on his warning lights, signalling the driver (Mr Kingi) to stop. However, Mr Kingi accelerated away and the Police officer commenced a pursuit, notifying the Police communications centre, as required by Police policy. During the pursuit the officer reached a maximum speed of 127 kph in a 50 kph speed zone but could not catch up to the Mitsubishi. A short time later the officer lost sight of the car so pulled over to the side of the road, turned off his siren and advised the communications centre of his actions.
The pursuit had covered about 2.5 kilometres and lasted for about one and a half minutes.
After speaking to some pedestrians the officer drove down Nelson Road at the speed limit with his warning lights still on and found that the fleeing Mitsubishi had crashed just after a moderate right hand bend. He immediately called for ambulances and the Fire Service. Ms Badger was taken to hospital but the other three young people died at the scene due to severe head injuries.
A sample of Mr Kingi’s blood taken after the crash was found to contain 210 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood – over twice the legal limit.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority found that the officer was justified in commencing a pursuit after he had observed the vehicle exceeding the speed limit and Mr Kingi failed to stop when signalled to do so.
However the Authority found that the officer should have abandoned the pursuit shortly after it began due to the risks posed by the high speed of the pursuit in a residential, 50 kph area. The officer’s speed of 127 kph was excessive and he did not comply with some aspects of Police policy in relation to siren use, reporting speed limits, abandonment and search phase.
The Authority also concluded that the communications centre dispatcher mistakenly recorded inaccurate information about the applicable speed limit, which ultimately misled the pursuit controller about the true extent of the risks involved in the pursuit. The dispatcher should have sought confirmation of the posted speed limit when he requested an update on the fleeing driver’s speed and manner of driving.
The pursuit controller should have ensured that the pursuing officer complied with the requirements of the fleeing driver policy in respect of abandonment, and should have verbally authorised him to begin a search phase, the report said.
The Authority has found that the Police failures were either unjustified or undesirable. The Authority has made recommendations to the Commissioner of Police in relation to: the digital roll-out and the implementation of hands-free technology in all operational vehicles; the continued development of policy and procedures for compulsory drug and alcohol testing of officers involved in critical incidents; and amending the fleeing driver policy to require officers to state a specific reason for commencing a pursuit.