A mother and her two young children were fighting for their lives today after a car thief ploughed into them as they crossed a busy road. The children's grandmother, named in reports as Pamela Phinn, was killed.
Police had been following the driver of the silver Honda Civic, which had been "carjacked" minutes earlier by an armed man.
The saloon was driven away from the scene of the carjacking in South Tyneside and the driver ploughed into two parked cars while being pursued by police.
The stolen car then crashed into the 28-year-old mother, her two young children and her partner's mother, Mrs Phinn, as they crossed Horsley Hill Road in South Shields with a double buggy.
Eyewitnesses were said to have seen Mrs Phinn, who was in her 40s, try to shove the pushchair out of the way of the car, which was believed to be speeding at up to 80mph.
But the buggy was reported to have been thrown 20ft into the air as the grandmother took the full force of the crash.
Neighbour Jackie McIntyre said: "Pamela was a lovely lady and a loving grandmother.
"She worked in the George clothing section of the local Asda, and was very popular.
"She was an attractive lady, she loved her family. Her son and his partner have two little boys and they are often seen around the town with them in the double buggy."
Northumbria Police said Mrs Phinn, who was from South Tyneside, died following the crash.
The mother, also from the local area, was in a serious condition and her children, understood to be young boys, were "giving cause for concern".
A man was arrested at the scene of the crash and was helping detectives with their inquiries.
The incident happened at 2.10pm when a motorist was forced to leave his Honda Civic by an armed thief.
The man brandished a weapon as he forced the driver from the car in the town's busy Western Approach.
A marked patrol car was alerted to the incident after the victim of the carjacking contacted police.
As officers followed the stolen car, it collided with two parked cars in Westoe Road.
Seconds later, the car careered into the two women and the children as they crossed Horsley Hill Road.
The matter has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for investigation.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "A woman, believed to be in her 40s, from the South Tyneside area, died following the collision.
"A 28-year-old woman, also from South Tyneside, is in a serious condition in hospital.
"The 28-year-old woman's two young children are also in hospital giving cause for concern."
The Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed that it is investigating the police pursuit.
Nicholas Long, IPCC Commissioner, said: "My thoughts are with the families and friends of the deceased and the injured.
"This incident was a tragedy of the worst kind. An innocent woman lost her life while out walking on a sunny afternoon.
"Our investigation will seek to establish whether the pursuit that led to her death was in line with driving procedures laid down by Northumbria Police Force and whether any actions could have been taken to prevent this tragic death."
In a brief statement, Debbie Carnell, manager of the Asda store in South Shields, said staff were struggling to come to terms with the loss of Mrs Phinn, a much-loved colleague.
"We are absolutely devastated," she said.
"Pamela was loved by everyone in the store and our hearts go out to her family."
Mrs Phinn had worked in the supermarket's George clothing section for several years.
A spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is managing the investigation into the police pursuit of the stolen car, said the condition of the 28-year-old woman and her two young children had improved overnight.
"They are now in a stable condition in hospital, which is an improvement on last night's 'giving cause for concern'," he added.
Floral tributes were left on both sides of the road where Mrs Phinn died.
The card on one bouquet read: "To Auntie Pam, I ask myself why?
"Just a beautiful considerate person, warm-hearted and generous, will miss you loads.
"Love you lots, Julie, Andrew, Jade, Georgia."
Well-wishers stood silently at the spot, then walked away in tears.
Another bouquet read: "A very special person, from all your friends and colleagues at Asda, South Shields."
Markings on the road by police investigators showed the track of the stolen car as it careered around a blind bend into Horsley Hill Road, before hitting a wall then slewing back on to the road.
Mrs Phinn was thrown into the air and died on the opposite side of the street, where more flowers were left today.Reuse content