Police have been cleared by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) following a triple-fatal pursuit crash, despite their target not being in the car they were chasing.
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In March 2018 police were staking out a Nelson address in the hunt for a "high-risk wanted offender".
After believing they saw them leave the address in a car, police signalled for them to stop. Instead, the driver accelerated away at high-speed and police launched a pursuit.
The fleeing man overtook a truck on State Highway 6, and collided with a vehicle driven by Carmen Yanko.
Ms Yanko was killed on impact, as were Johnathan Tairakena and Phillip Stretch, the occupants of the fleeing vehicle.
Following the crash it was found that the wanted man was not in the car. Despite this, the IPCA found the decision to stop the fleeing vehicle was "reasonable and the resulting pursuit was justified".
"The Authority has determined that despite the tragic outcome resulting in three deaths, the pursuit was properly commenced and conducted safely and in accordance with Police policy and the law. The collision scene was managed safely," says IPCA chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
Police say they offer their condolences to the friends and whanau of all those killed in the crash.
"The outcome of the crash and the death of three people including an innocent road user was a tragedy," says Tasman District Commander Superintendent Mike Johnson.
"This was a needless waste of three lives which could have been avoided had the driver just stopped when signalled to do so by Police."