08 March 2012
The Police pursuit of a 20 year old driver in a stolen car near Pukekohe was called off approximately 30 seconds before he collided with another vehicle and died instantly.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority investigation into the pursuit of Caine Burgess on 18 July 2011 has concluded that it was conducted according to law and policy.
Mr Burgess died when the stolen Nissan he was driving collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Waiuku and Attewell Rds near Pukekohe at around 3.00pm. The driver of the second car suffered broken bones and other injuries after Mr Burgess drove through a stop sign and struck the front of her Ford Fairmont stationwagon. Mr Burgess suffered multiple injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. He had traces of THC (cannabis) in his blood.
Two Police officers in an unmarked car had earlier pursued him for approximately two minutes over a distance of about seven kilometres, commencing in Tuakau Rd. They had been alerted to the Nissan by an off-duty Police officer who had noticed it speeding and being driven erratically through residential streets in Pukekohe. The off-duty officer approached the officers and reported his suspicion that the Nissan may also be stolen, as one of its quarterlight windows was smashed.
The Police officers followed the Nissan for a short distance and although Mr Burgess was at that stage driving legally, they activated their red and blue warning lights and siren and flashed their headlights in an attempt to stop him and speak about his earlier behavior. However Mr Burgess accelerated away. The officers were justified in commencing the pursuit at this point, as Mr Burgess had failed to stop.
The Police officers reported Mr Burgess reached speeds of 130 kph and their own vehicle reached 140 kph at one point, in a 100 kph speed zone. However as Police approached a 50 kph zone, they reduced their speed to 80 kph.
The pursuit controller at the Northern Communications Centre then instructed the officers to abandon the pursuit, as he believed the fleeing driver was now travelling at approximately 140 kph in a 50 kph zone, but was unable to confirm this due to radio difficulties.
In compliance with Police policy, the officers turned off their lights and siren, slowed their vehicle and stopped at the side of the road near the intersection of Attewell and Blake Rds. A resident of Blake Rd confirms Police had already stopped on the side of the road when he heard a thud and saw a cloud of dust in the distance which he took to be a car crash. The resident then observed the Police car pull out and head to the scene of the accident. Another eyewitness confirmed the Police car arrived at the crash scene travelling at normal speed, and without its lights and siren activated.
As a result of its investigation, the Authority is satisfied that Police conducted the pursuit in accordance with law and policy, and that they prioritised public safety. Although the officers briefly experienced radio difficulties while communicating with NorthComms, overall it was a well-run pursuit.
The Authority makes no recommendations.
NOTE: The Independent Police Conduct Authority has not produced a full public report into this pursuit, in light of its conclusion that Police complied with policy and in the interests of timely reporting of its findings. The Police conduct in this case did not raise any issues that require a full report in the public interest. This statement serves as a summarised report of the facts of the crash and of the Authority’s findings. Full background into Police fleeing driver policy, and the legislative authority for pursuits, can be found in recent IPCA pursuit reports on this website.