Injured officer 'in good spirits'

Sean Hurley
Sean Hurley
A Wanaka police officer allegedly attacked inside his patrol car by a drink-driver yesterday afternoon is the same man seriously injured during what started as another routine drink-driving stop just over six years ago.

Senior Constable Sean Hurley (52) was left bloodied and bruised with minor injuries to his head, eye and ribs after yesterday's incident, which happened in Makarora as he was driving the alleged offender, a 72-year-old Haast man, to the Wanaka police station.

In December 2007, a car dragged Snr Const Hurley 40m along the road and through a fence, before smashing him into the side of a building, after he tried to stop a teenage drink-driver for a breath-test in Wanaka.

That incident left him with a broken leg, crushed feet and extensive neck and shoulder ligament damage.

Yesterday, Snr Const Hurley stopped the motorist in Makarora for a routine breath test about 3pm after road workers at the Diana Falls slip site in the Haast Pass reported a suspected drunk driver heading towards Wanaka on State Highway 6.

After failing the test, the motorist was asked to accompany Snr Const Hurley to Wanaka and, on the way, is alleged to have kicked the officer in the head and attempted to gouge his eye.

Wanaka sub-area commander Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell told the Otago Daily Times Snr Const Hurley stopped the vehicle after the assault and restrained the man, before continuing.

However, the man began ''playing up'' in the back seat again as the car approached the Makarora Country Cafe, so Snr Const Hurley pulled into the cafe forecourt, restrained him again and radioed for urgent assistance, Snr Sgt Grindell said.

Two police cars and an ambulance were dispatched from Wanaka. The Makarora Rural Fire Force also responded.

Cafe co-owner David Howe and another staff member assisted Snr Const Hurley before the emergency services arrived.

''He just wanted some help. He wanted somebody else there to give him support really,'' Mr Howe said.

''[I was] observing to make sure the person he had under arrest was still breathing because he was lying down on the back seat. So, we just made sure that everyone was safe.''

Snr Const Hurley had ''a few bruise marks on his face and he had blood on him ... he was quite shaken up'', Mr Howe said.

The motorist was transported by other police to the Wanaka station and is likely to face charges relating to drink-driving and assaulting a police officer.

Snr Sgt Grindell was unable to confirm the man's breath-alcohol or blood-alcohol readings.

Snr Const Hurley was treated at Wanaka's medical centre and was last night in ''pretty good spirits for what's happened'', Snr Sgt Grindell said.

An attack on a staff member, although upsetting, was a risk of rural policing, he said.

''... it brings it home to us about taking extra care.''

While the incident was not the sort commonly experienced by Wanaka officers, it highlighted the ''unpredictability and difficulties'' of managing people who had consumed large quantities of alcohol, Snr Sgt Grindell said.

Police are developing a prototype protective screen that would be fitted for extra protection between the front and back seats of the vehicles of one and two-person stations.

It was reported in the March Police News magazine that subject to successful testing, the screens would be fitted to new vehicles as they were rolled out to those stations.

The idea was suggested by Southern District police when ideas for improving police vehicle use were invited.

Asked for his views on protective screens in police vehicles, Snr Sgt Grindell said they were helpful in rural areas, particularly in a ''one-man patrol'' situation.