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27 March 2014 - The Independent Police Conduct Authority today released two separate reports on Police pursuits which ended in the death of five young people in Auckland and Whanganui last year.
Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, said in both cases the Authority found that Police complied with the law and Police policy.
“Both incidents were caused by the actions of the drivers and subsequently ended in tragedy,” Sir David said.
The Auckland incident resulted in the death of 19-year-old Dominic Stehlin and his three passengers following a Police pursuit in Mangere on 11 May 2013.
Mr Stehlin, an unlicensed driver who had been forbidden to drive by Police in February 2013 and had been issued with a traffic offence notice in March 2013 for failing to comply with a prohibition order, was signalled by Police to stop after speeding along Great South Road in Papatoetoe and travelling through a red light.
Mr Stehlin continued to flee Police and on State Highway 20 he momentarily lost control of his car, striking the left-hand barrier before regaining control and continuing along the State Highway at speeds of 160km-per-hour. At this point Police decided to abandon the pursuit in accordance with Police policy.
Following the pursuit abandonment Mr Stehlin continued driving along State Highway 20 at speeds well in excess of the speed limit. Just after midnight, two other Police officers were travelling ahead of Mr Stehlin in a marked patrol car and saw him approaching. He overtook their patrol car at an off-ramp and sped along Massey Road. The two officers immediately followed Mr Stehlin signalling him to stop. About 30 seconds later the officers abandoned the pursuit when Mr Stehlin showed no sign of stopping.
Just before Mr Stehlin reached Prangley Avenue, about 500 metres from where the pursuit was abandoned, he entered a right-hand bend and lost control of his car. The car’s left wheel hit the kerb causing the car to travel sideways onto the opposite side of the road where it hit an unoccupied, parked Toyota Hilux.
Mr Stehlin and one of his passengers, Uesetini Akulu To’o To’o, were killed instantly while the other two passengers, George Lomia and Viane Gaga died later in hospital.
“This was a tragic accident caused by the actions of Mr Stehlin, who was driving dangerously and in excess of the blood alcohol limit for a person of his age. These actions resulted in the loss of life of four young people,” Sir David said.
The Authority found that Police complied with the law and Police policy in commencing the pursuits and with regards to communication, manner of driving, on-going risk assessment and abandonment of the pursuits.
The Whanganui incident resulted in the death of Ayla Nelson-Boyd following a Police pursuit in November 2013.
Around 4:30pm on 16 November 2013 Ms Nelson-Boyd, a learner driver, failed a Police alcohol test at a checkpoint on Cross Street, Whanganui. On failing the test Police took Ms Nelson-Boyd’s car keys and forbade her from driving over the following 12 hours. She was then picked up from the checkpoint by her grandfather.
Later that evening Ms Nelson-Boyd obtained a spare set of keys to her car and drove six friends to a party in Bulls. After driving back to Whanganui from the party, two Police officers saw Ms Nelson-Boyd’s car coming towards them and thought the vehicle looked overloaded in the back due to the angle of its headlights. The officers activated their patrol car’s warning lights to signal the driver to stop but rather than doing so, Ms Nelson-Boyd accelerated away from Police. The officers continued to pursue Ms Nelson-Boyd and her six passengers along the Whanganui streets covering a distance of approximately 3.7km. When the officers turned into Swiss Avenue they saw that the car had collided with a tree.
The officers immediately notified the Police dispatcher of the collision and requested an ambulance to attend the scene. The officers then provided assistance to the occupants of the car.
“This was a pursuit which lasted just over two minutes in a residential, well-lit area of Whanganui. Police complied with the law and Police policy in commencing the pursuit and regularly assessed the level of risk throughout the pursuit,” Sir David said.
“While in these instances the Authority has not found any breaches of Police policy, the Authority is continuing its discussions with Police about a review of policies connected with the pursuit of fleeing drivers,” Sir David said.
Deaths of four men following Police pursuit in Mangere (PDF, 596kb).
Fatal Pursuit of Ayla Nelson-Boyd (PDF, 593kb).