08 March 2012
The investigation of a fatal crash in Taranaki has found the driver may have collided deliberately with a parked Police car shortly before the crash, to attract Police attention.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has completed its investigation into the death of 36 year old Robert Seifert, who suffered acute head injuries and died after crashing his Toyota MR2 into a concrete power pole near Manaia on 9 October 2011.
The Authority has concluded that Mr Seifert deliberately drove his Toyota into a marked Police car that was legally parked on the main street (Surf Highway) in Opunake. Following the collision, Mr Seifert drove for approximately 14 minutes, covering 30 kilometres at an average speed of 132 kph, before crashing near Manaia.
Eyewitnesses who observed his driving at various times following the initial collision reported that he travelled at excessive speed, but that twice he also appeared to slow down and look for following vehicles.
The Police officer whose car was involved in the collision in Opunake did not undertake a pursuit because by the time he returned to his vehicle he had lost sight of the Toyota. He radioed colleagues for assistance and three Hawera-based officers responded, in two marked Police cars.
One Police car reached speeds of 140 kph in a 100 kph speed zone during the pursuit, but its driver lost sight of Mr Seifert and he abandoned the pursuit. The two officers in the second Police car also reached high speeds during a second pursuit, which lasted about two and a half minutes. They did not have time to consider abandoning the pursuit before they found Mr Seifert’s vehicle had crashed. Eyewitnesses report that both Police cars slowed down when they travelled through the more built-up area around Manaia.
A pathologist’s report found Mr Seifert had no alcohol in his system, and a Police crash investigator found there were no environmental factors or faults with his vehicle that may have contributed to the crash. Mr Seifert was not wearing a seatbelt and although driving at dusk, he had not turned on his headlights.
The Authority has found that the Police officers who responded to the incident all complied with legislation and policy, and were justified in either pursuing Mr Seifert or undertaking urgent duty driving after his initial collision with the Police car. Mr Seifert’s actions drew Police attention to his driving and the full circumstances of his death will be determined by the Coroner.
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.