Fleeing driver dives into river after car catches fire

NZ police car
The incident comes a day after three people were killed in a pursuit that ended in a crash near Nelson. Photo credit: NewsPixNZ

A driver fleeing police on Monday morning abandoned his vehicle after it caught fire and dove into a river.

Shortly after 9:30am police saw the vehicle acting "suspiciously" near Katikati, Bay of Plenty.

They followed at a distance without starting a chase, as it was driving below the speed limit. Road spikes were set up near Wairoa Bridge, but when the driver realised what was going on, he did a U-turn and drove away at speed.

Fleeing driver dives into river after car catches fire
Photo credit: NewsPixNZ

A brief pursuit was abandoned, police opting to try road spikes again, this time on Whakamarama Rd.

"The car went over those spikes, blowing the front-left tyre of the car," police said in a statement. "The car continued on, towards Ross Rd, driving on the rim of the front-left tyre."

The fleeing driver went over another set of spikes, turning onto Barrett Rd and then State Highway 2.

Fleeing driver dives into river after car catches fire
Photo credit: NewsPixNZ

A fourth set of spikes was deployed near Wairoa Bridge again, but that's when the car caught fire.

"The car's on its rims, he's powering along on the road, sparks coming out, then crashed into the side of a bridge," a witness told Newshub. "The car burst into flames, and he jumped off the bridge and swam down the river."

Police followed him along the river bank, before arresting him when came ashore near an inlet.

Fleeing driver dives into river after car catches fire
Photo credit: NewsPixNZ

"All the police were here," the witness said. "They just watched him float down the river."

Police say he's likely to face several charges.

The incident comes a day after three people were killed in a pursuit that ended in a crash near Nelson.

Newshub.