DESTROYED: The driver of this car was taken to hospital after he crashed into this truck on the one-lane Pekatahi Bridge following a police pursuit yesterday. Photo Sven Carlsson D8163-07

A POLICE pursuit ended abruptly yesterday after the car being chased crashed into a truck on the one-lane Pekatahi Bridge near Taneatua.

The chase did not need to end this way, according to a witness who says police should have called it off when the pursuit became “too dangerous”.

He is concerned at the speed police were driving through the Taneatua township, believing it put pedestrians at risk.

The man said police initiated the chase after the driver of the vehicle performed “wheelies” in front of them.

He then said the car “shot” towards Ruatoki at high speed followed by police.

“The car then must’ve turned around and come back through, because they shot through Taneatua again, still at extremely high speed.

“The problem is, the police are not meant to be giving chase like this, they endangered lives in Taneatua.

“I think that is so wrong – there were a lot of people gathered around the second time they shot through and they were all commenting on how badly behaved they are and how wrong they are to get away with it. They do it all over the country and there’s no comeback on them.”

The witness estimated the fleeing vehicle and police were travelling at 100kmh through the township, which has a speed limit of 50km.

“They cannot be trusted to obey the law they are trying to hammer down on other people,” he said.

“That guy could’ve been killed because he’s running scared, so he just carries on and tries to do something stupid.

“Pedestrians could’ve been killed, it was lunchtime they were walking to the takeaway shop and the petrol station. It was just too fast.

“We too often think the police are right and they’re doing their job but they’re not. They could have let him go, he didn’t do anything except a wheelie. Why endanger other people’s lives because of it?”

A police spokeswoman said police attempted to stop the vehicle around 12pm due to concerns around its driving. After it failed to stop a pursuit was initiated.

“Shortly afterwards the vehicle crashed into a truck on the Pekatahi Bridge,” said the spokeswoman.

“The vehicle then reversed into a police vehicle, following which the driver fled on foot and attempted to take another vehicle. The driver was then taken into custody by police.”

The spokeswoman said these sorts of events are always challenging, dynamic and complex events for police staff.

“Our focus is on preventing harm and keeping people safe on our roads,” she said.

“Police always face a difficult balance in protecting the public from dangerous driving behaviour and potentially causing the offending drivers to take greater risks. Police staff always assess the risk of pursuing fleeing drivers and take every decision very seriously.

This is continually reassessed throughout the fleeing driver event.”

The spokeswoman said police would prefer that anybody who is signalled to stop by police simply pull over and stop.

“Its not worth putting your life, your passenger’s life, or anyone else’s life at risk,” she said.

The driver of the car received a minor injury in the initial crash and was taken by ambulance to hospital. He was discharged less than two hours later and was taken into police custody.

The driver of the truck was uninjured.

charlotte.jones@thebeacon.co.nz