Fourth man dies after police pursuit

The fourth man involved in a fatal crash following a police pursuit on Friday night has died.

Viane Gaga's ventilator was turned off last night, and he died at Counties Manukau hospital this afternoon.

Mr Gaga passed away peacefully, a hospital spokeswoman said.

His three friends, George Lomia, Dominic Stehlin and Uesetini Tootoo, also died after their vehicle hit a parked car on Massey Rd.

A friend of the Gaga family earlier said family members had gathered at his bedside to pray for him and to say their goodbyes.

Mr Gaga had been in bed on Friday night when his three friends, all De La Salle College old boys, dropped by his Mangere home, where he lived with his parents, and asked him to go out for a drink.

A family friend said all the boys were drunk at the time of the crash and the driver was unlicensed.

The three deaths, and a recent spate of serious injuries following police pursuits, have sparked new calls for a ban on all chases - except in extreme emergencies.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor last night said there was effectively already a ban on chases, as evidenced by yesterday's events.

The three friends who died were first spotted by police speeding along Wiri Station Rd, Manukau, just before midnight on Friday. The Honda Accord sped away from a police car and the pursuit was called off.

The car then increased to speeds of up to 160km/h along the Southwestern Motorway. The youths were seen by a second police patrol, which was overtaken by the car on the Massey Rd off-ramp.

Police say seconds after the patrol abandoned the pursuit, the car crashed into a parked car on Massey Rd. Residents heard a loud bang - and emerged in their nightclothes to a gruesome scene.

"The car engine was on and the driver was dead," said one resident, who asked not to be named."[Police] were trying to get the other two out. I saw them cutting off his T-shirt and putting a neck brace on him," she said. "They covered up the car and left the dead people inside."

Another resident, Misi-Kopa Misi, said:"[The occupants] couldn't move, they couldn't speak."

A friend of the Gaga family, Uahine Faalava, said Viane Gaga had been at home on Friday night when his friends took him out to get a drink.

"He had to work at 5am so he was at home getting some rest, but the other three went to his house and he left with them in the car."

Dominic Stehlin was about to become a father for the first time. Last night, family and friends gathered at his home in Mangere. One said Stehlin had been driving and had taken his parents' car. A neighbour named the fourth person as Uesetini Tootoo, also of Mangere.

Another of those killed, George Lomia, celebrated his 20th birthday on March 3. His uncle and caregiver Gum Maaseia said he was a good kid who rarely drank alcohol or partied. He spent most of his time lifting weights at home, playing the PlayStation or hanging out with his girlfriend, Rosey Lilo, he said.

"I didn't know he went out. Every time he informs me. George hardly drinks and if he is does he knows his limit. He is a perfect kid, a lovely kid."

His parents and siblings were flying in from Australia today.

At a press conference just metres from where Friday night's pursuit began, Counties Manukau District Commander Superintendent John Tims said the tragedy was avoidable.

"I have a very simple and passionate message to drivers, particularly young drivers: if asked to stop by police, stop. These deaths are avoidable."

The Serious Crash Unit is investigating and the Police Conduct Authority has been notified.

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