Wellington teen killed in police pursuit was in the car boot

Wellington teen killed in police pursuit was in the car boot
Photo credit: File

A Wellington teenager who was killed in a fatal police pursuit was crammed in the boot of the fleeing car.

Six people were in the car when police began a pursuit on State Highway 1 near the Terrace Tunnel, at 2:44am on Saturday. The car had been reported stolen on Friday.

Wellington district commander Supt Sam Hoyle told Newshub a dog handler saw the Mazda Demio hatchback "travelling at a high speed" and started chasing it.

But the driver continued to flee from the single police patrol car, driving north on the motorway, before crashing just south of the Tawa interchange - a distance of around 13km.

Fifteen-year-old Bailey Patmore from Cannons Creek, Porirua, has been named the victim.

The police car was still engaged in the pursuit at the time of the crash, "providing commentary to comms", Supt Hoyle told Newshub.

He said the pursuit lasted for just over five minutes but it's not yet known the speed the cars were travelling at before the crash.

"At that point our officer, who was alone, has learned there were six occupants. Five of them were seated in the car, proper. The deceased, unfortunately, had been travelling in the rear of the hatch in the boot."

Five of the occupants, including the deceased and the driver, were under the age of 17.

They have all been returned to their families.

One of the other passengers was 21 years old and is now in police custody.

Supt Hoyle said it is likely charges will be laid against the young driver, with a criminal investigation now underway.

It is too early to tell if the teen was licensed or had prior convictions.

The pursuit wasn't abandoned because it was a divided highway with very light traffic at that time of the morning.

"That may likely have changed if it had gone onto suburban streets or if the circumstances had been different," he said.

Some of the passengers even got out of the car immediately after the crash and tried to run off while the deceased was in the boot.

Supt Hoyle says it's an "incredibly sad" outcome for the family.

"They've lost a young person. May 19 will never have the same meaning for them again as a family.

"We spent several hours of the early hours of the morning with the family and officers are remaining with the family."

Supt Hoyle says it was also devastating for the officer involved, who is now being provided with support.

"He was horrified to discover someone had been in the boot of that car and was now deceased.

"The damage and trauma from an event like this is widely felt through our organisation."

A number of investigations have opened, including an internal inquiry and a serious crash unit investigation. The Independent Police Conduct Authority has also been notified, while a coronial inquest will also likely be undertaken.

Supt Hoyle says backup was on the way at the time of the crash and plans were in place to set up road spikes. But he says the "nature of these events" is that they are "inherently dangerous".

"For those of us who have been involved in a few over the years, even when you're making constant risk assessments, a person can be driving okay right up to the point they're not. And that's usually the scene of the crash.

"It's a tough judgement for our officers who are engaged in the pursuit as to when they should disengage."

Over 50 percent of pursuits are disengaged, Supt Hoyle says.

"The motivations for fleeing are many and varied. It's hard to understand at times the mentality of fleeing drivers.

"That balance we have to make between holding people to account for the offending, or to public safety, is a difficult one.

"We just wish they would pull over and stop."