Family devastated after teen dies in high speed chase

A Hamilton family are "devastated" after a 17-year old joy-rider died after a high-speed police chase in the city today.

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 injuries.

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 Velde.

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 man's life.

"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 ambulance staff.

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 said.

"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."


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