18 Sep 2010

Man charged with manslaughter after police pursuit

5:00 pm on 18 September 2010

Police have charged a man with manslaughter over the deaths of two young people following a police pursuit in Auckland on Friday night.

The pursuit started after it was reported that a red laser was being beamed onto drivers on the south-western motorway.

Police say they abandoned the chase shortly before the vehicle hit a lamppost in Onehunga, killing Jaycherree Penelope Makakea and Joseph Jack Tawhai, who were both 20.

The driver of the car turned himself in after initially fleeing from the crash.

Police say a 20-year-old has been arrested and charged with two counts of manslaughter. He will appear in the Auckland District Court on Monday.

Two survivors of the crash are in a stable but serious condition in Auckland Hospital.

Just pull over, says minister

Calling the deaths a tragedy, Police Minister Judith Collins says she's constantly trying to get the message across to drivers not to flee from officers.

The deaths have brought to 15 the number of people killed this year in connection with police pursuits.

Ms Collins says the consequences of being caught by the police will never be as severe as people dying.

"People need to realise," she says, "that when the police siren goes, when they're being asked to pull over, just do it. It's the only safe thing to do."

She said police have to do their job and they'll be "damned if they do, and damned if they don't".

Pursuit called off within two minutes, police say

Police say they were called to the Queenstown Rd overbridge in Onehunga because it had been reported that a laser was being shone onto drivers on the motorway.

When officers got there, they say, a vehicle with five people inside sped off. It was pursued, police say, but the pursuit was called off within two minutes because the car being pursued went through a red traffic light at speed and it was considered too dangerous to continue.

They say the speeding vehicle continued for 170 metres, clipped a roundabout and went a further 20 metres before crashing into a power pole.

The car landed on its roof and two of the occupants died at the scene.

The Serious Crash Unit and the CIB are carrying out inquiries and the Independent Police Conduct Authority will also investigate.