Waikato Police say the consequences of poor decision making on the behalf of young people are readily apparent today as officers investigating the death of a young man early this morning deal with a variety of victims.
District Commander, Superintendent Win van der Velde, said family liaison officers were working with the family of a 17-year-old Hamilton man who lost his life after the stolen car he was trying to flee from Police in crashed into a stone retaining wall.
"The young man's family are understandably devastated by what has happened but there are other victims who we are having to help navigate through this whole tragic process.
"Those other victims include a 14-year-old boy who was a front seat passenger in the car when it crashed who is currently in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital with serious leg injuries. Another is a 15-year-old girl travelling as a rear seat passenger who was able to walk away from the crash because she had the presence of mind to be wearing her seatbelt."
Mr van der Velde said another victim coming to terms with the death of the young man was his staff member who saw a car travelling down the road with no headlights on shortly before 2am and less than a minute later was fighting to save a young man's life.
"The car was seen driving without lights on at 1.48am and the officer has activated his lights and siren, advised North Comms he is trying to stop a fleeing driver, become concerned about the nature of the offender's driving and advised he is abandoning the pursuit then witnessed the crash all in less than a minute.
"The offending car travelled approximately 1500m from when it was first seen to when it came to a violent halt, in that short distance our officer had to go from carrying out a routine traffic stop to fighting to save a young man's life and this is the huge expectation we place on our officers."
Mr van der Velde said this morning's fatality was all the more tragic given the avoidability of what happened.
"Here we have a young man in the prime of his life who chose to drive in breach of his learner driver's licence conditions which prohibited him from driving at that hour of the night and from carrying passengers.
"The ramifications of that decision were further compounded by his decision, when seen driving without his headlights on, to then accelerate away from Police when lights and sirens were activated to indicate for him to stop."
Mr van der Velde said the preliminary indications from what will be three separate investigations are that speed was a significant factor in the crash.
"This matter will be the subject of three investigations, a criminal investigation, a Coronial investigation and a procedural investigation conducted by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
"In addition the Police investigation will be overseen by an independent out of district senior investigator."
Mr van der Velde said today's tragedy highlighted the issue of the vulnerability of youth and showed why there was a need for graduated driver licences.
"Young people do not yet have the skills to always make the right decisions not only on the roads but in life in general which is why we have a graduated system- to allow them to build and develop their experience.
"Tragically this young man, because of a combination of what in isolation could be accepted as minor poor judgements, has paid with his life and left a number of people having to come to terms with his loss."