A dramatic police chase in Christchurch involving two stolen vehicles, high speeds, road spikes and a helicopter was triggered by a gun being pointed at another car.
The fleeing driver remains at large after an incident spanning multiple suburbs, from the northwest to the central city to the city’s south.
Blair Wright woke up on Thursday to find his car gone.
Wright said he got up at 4am for work, looked out at the road and couldn’t see his car.
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“I was blown away really, it was a real surprise,” he said.
He had already reported his car missing to the police when his friend sent him a post on Facebook about his vehicle being involved in a police chase.
“I just thought wow, I don’t really know what to do now.”
Police said they received a report at 6.12am that a firearm had been presented by the occupant of one vehicle to another vehicle traveling on Port Hills Rd, Hillsborough.
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Officers responded and signaled for the vehicle to stop, but it fled. “Police did not initiate a pursuit and instead tracked the vehicle as it fled through the suburbs.”
Police unsuccessfully deployed road spikes and called in a local helicopter to help track the vehicle.
The vehicle was later found abandoned at a BP petrol station on Moorhouse Ave, Addington – where the offender stole a van and fled.
“Observations on this second vehicle were lost soon after that.”
A person who worked on Moorhouse Ave said they saw the first “munted” silver Subaru get ditched at the Moorhouse BP station on Thursday morning. Two young people jumped out of the car and stole a van from the petrol station.
“We saw a silver Subaru flying up Moorhouse Ave the wrong way, going about 90 to 100kph and slamming straight into the driveway of the BP next door,” they said.
“The car was severely beaten up, it looked stolen.”
They said the occupants of the car, a male and a female, “looked very young, maybe aged 14 to 18”.
Christchurch resident Susie Watson saw four people inside a silver Subaru early this morning when it did a U-turn at “excessive speed” and cut her off down Fitzgerald Ave.
“I’ve never seen such speed in peak hour traffic. It was horrible,” Watson said.
“There were definitely four in the car, that’s the first thing I noticed, and I said to myself straight away that’s a stolen car.”
Watson said the occupants also shook their fists out the car window at her.
Dan Martin is one of many Christchurch residents rattled after having a close encounter with the driver involved in the high speed pursuit.
Martin was driving down Greers Rd after doing the morning school drop off and heard sirens behind him.
“This gray car with a door wide open came screaming around the corner,” Martin said.
“The speed he was traveling at and on the wrong side of the road, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Martin said he felt “shaken up” after the incident.
Another resident, Chris Martin, was driving when he saw a silver Subaru speeding up John’s Rd towards the Yaldhurst Rd roundabout.
Martin slowed down when he saw police with road spikes ahead.
“Suddenly from the left on the inside, on the grass, traveling at least 120kph [the driver] passed us on the inside.”
The door was wide open and almost clipped his wing mirror, he said.
“He then crossed in front of us into the opposite lane and drove towards the officer who was waiting with road spikes.
“Then he took a large sweeping turn dodging the spikes, barely missing a truck and took the first exit on Yaldhurst roundabout.”
One local was scared the fleeing car was going to hit her when she was driving down Yaldhurst Rd about 9am.
“He was very close to my car. He came from behind and swerved around me doing around 100 km/h,” she said.
“It looked like his door was half open and the back of his car was smashed up. The police were about a minute behind him.”
A Garden City Helicopter could be seen circling the central city and the Opawa/Hillsborough area just after 9.30am. A police spokesperson said one helicopter was used in a “fleeing driver incident unfolding in the city”.
AStuff reporter at the scene saw police cars “zooming” through the Hillsborough area, including a dog patrol unit doing what looked like laps in the area.
“Quite a few people were down at [Hansen] park wondering what was going on because there was a chopper hovering almost just above the park and it looked like it was looking for something.”
“[There are] lots of cops around.”
The dangerous driving was seen right across the city, with reports of the car spotted on Ferry Road, Moorhouse Ave, Deans Ave, Maidstone Road, Memorial Ave, Cotswold Ave, Grahams Road, Waimari Road, Riccarton Road and Jones Road.
On Saturday, a man allegedly stole a police dog handler’s car that was left running in Hoon Hay, Christchurch, prompting a police chase. A 28-year-old man was arrested on Monday after several properties were searched by the police.
In 2020, the police Eagle helicopter did a five-week trial in Canterbury. It attended more than 305 jobs and helped catch more than 210 people during the trial, meaning it helped catch 69 percent (or more than two thirds) of all offenders caught by the police during that time.
Most of the Eagle’s callouts related to police pursuits. Its presence meant police ground units could end chases earlier to keep roads safer, while the helicopter crew kept eyes on the fleeing drivers.
The Eagle crew attended eight road-related jobs of note during the trial – most of which involved drivers fleeing the police or driving while under the influence.