A Hamilton family are "devastated" after a 17-year old
joy-rider died after a high-speed police chase in the city
Three separate investigations will probe how the teenager,
driving a stolen car with two younger passengers, came to
crash into a stone wall around 2am.
Family liaison officers are working with the youngster's
family, while a 14-year-old male front-seat passenger is in
Waikato Hospital in a critical condition with serious leg
A third passenger, a 15-year old girl in the back seat,
walked away "because she had the presence of mind to be
wearing her seatbelt", police said.
"The young man's family are understandably devastated by what
has happened but there are other victims who we are having to
help navigate through this whole tragic process," said
Waikato Police District Commander, Superintendent Win van der
The police officer who saw the car travelling down Rotokauri
Rd with its headlights off shortly before 2am is also coming
to terms with the death.
Police say the officer abandoned the high speed chase after
becoming concerned about the dangerous nature of the driving.
Less than a minute later, he was fighting to save a young
"The offending car travelled approximately 1500 metres from
when it was first seen to when it came to a violent halt. In
that short distance our officer had to go from carrying out a
routine traffic stop to fighting to save a young man's life,
and this is the huge expectation we place on our officers,"
Mr van der Velde said.
The driver was flung from the vehicle and died at the scene,
despite first aid attempts by the officer and attending
Mr van der Velde said this morning's fatality was all the
more tragic given the avoidability of what happened.
"Here we have a young man in the prime of his life who chose
to drive in breach of his learner driver's licence
conditions, which prohibited him from driving at that hour of
the night and from carrying passengers.
"The ramifications of that decision were further compounded
by his decision, when seen driving without his headlights on,
to then accelerate away from police when lights and sirens
were activated to indicate for him to stop."
Mr van der Velde said preliminary indications are that speed
was a significant factor in the crash which will be subject
to three investigations; by police, the Independent Police
Conduct Authority and the coroner.
The tragedy highlighted the issue of the vulnerability of
youth, and showed why there was a need for graduated driver
licences, police said.
"Young people do not yet have the skills to always make the
right decisions, not only on the roads but in life in
general, which is why we have a graduated system - to allow
them to build and develop their experience," Mr van der Velde
"Tragically this young man, because of a combination of what
in isolation could be accepted as minor poor judgements, has
paid with his life and left a number of people having to come
to terms with his loss."