Two police officers were injured as they tried to rescue three teenagers who died in “a ball of fire” after a police pursuit in Christchurch late last night.
The stolen vehicle was running red lights and travelling at speeds of over 130km/h, but the police pursuit lasted for just over a minute before it was abandoned for safety reasons, Commander Superintendent John Price told media today.
The vehicle went on to hit spikes laid by police, then crashed into a tree and caught fire at about 11.15pm.
“They [the two officers] attempted to rescue the driver and the passengers from the vehicle but sadly this was not possible due to the intense heat,” Mr Price said.
The officers received medical treatment after their rescue attempt.
The fiery nature of the crash meant the Disaster Victim Identification had been called on to identify the three teens in the car.
Police were not in pursuit of the vehicle when it hit the spikes, which were put in place in an attempt to stop the vehicle, he said.
"An outcome like this is the last thing police want to see," he added. "As a police officer and a parent of children, I am devastated by this needless loss."
Police were working to notify and support their next of kin, as well as support police staff involved, he said.
"These incidents are always extremely testing for police. They are fast-moving, unpredictable and high-pressure situations that require quick judgments," he said.
"Ultimately, police are here to protect our community. Our staff must strike a balance between the responsibility to protect life and the duty to enforce the law."
An investigation into the incident has commenced and the Independent Police Conduct Authority will be notified, which is standard practice, Mr Price said.
The crash comes in the wake of two other Christchurch police chases that ended in similar circumstances in recent months.
A woman in her early twenties died in a crash on Gloucester Street in November after fleeing police about five minutes earlier, and another crash, which killed two people last month, happened at the corner of Cuthberts Road and Breezes Road.