The police officers pursuing two teenagers riding an electric bike minutes before they were killed in a crash were the first to arrive at the scene of the collision, a senior police chief has confirmed.
Harvey Evans, 15, died alongside his best friend Kyrees Sullivan, 16, when the bike they were riding crashed in the Ely area of Cardiff on Monday evening.
Their deaths sparked rioting after video footage of a marked police van following the teenagers quickly circulated on social media.
South Wales Police said the collision had already occurred when the first officers arrived at the scene in Snowden Road.
Alun Michael, the local Police and Crime Commissioner, said he had been “assured and I am still assured youths were not being chased by the police at the time of the road traffic accident”.
Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Bacon said the police van, which had been following the boys, was the first to respond to the collision.
“Our thoughts are with the families and friends of Kyrees and Harvey and everyone affected by this terrible incident,” she told a press conference.
“We can only begin to imagine the grief they are experiencing at this time. The families continue to be supported and updated by family liaison officers.”
She told reporters the pursuit began on Frank Road when the bike turned around after seeing the police van and was then followed by the officers who did not turn on their lights or sirens.
They turned into Stanway Road, which is closed to traffic at one end, and local residents believe Harvey and Kyrees carried on to pass through the bollards to avoid the police - forcing officers to turn into Howell Road and onto Grand Avenue to loop around the estate.
Ms Bacon said that at the time of the collision the van was in Grand Avenue - half a mile away from Snowden Road - and when officers learned of the collision they were on Cowbridge Road West and turned on their blue lights and headed to the scene.
“There was no police vehicle in Snowden Road at the time of the collision and we believe there were no other vehicles involved in the incident,” she said.
“We have made a mandatory referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct to ensure the matter receives independent scrutiny.
“We will provide them with all the information we have, and they will undertake an independent investigation.”
Meanwhile Harvey’s family released a statement via South Wales Police saying their “hearts are truly broken”.
They said: “He lived life to the full, he had a big heart and deep down he truly cared. He was a best friend to Kyrees and our thoughts and prayers are with his family also.
“We ask for peace within the community and request that people leave the investigation to the police so we can get the answers we so desperately need to lay Harvey to rest.
“As Harvey’s mum, I want to remember our son as the fun and loving son that he was, and not as the media are portraying him now.”
A vigil and balloon release has been planned to pay tribute to two teenagers who died in a crash.
A post on Facebook said the vigil would take place at 6pm Friday on Snowden Road, where the crash happened. The post asked those attending to bring blue balloons.
The family of Kyrees said: “Kyrees was a loving, caring, handsome young man, a loving son to Belinda and Craig, little brother to Aleah and Jordan, and a special uncle KyKy to Myra.
“He was loved so much by his grandparents and aunties and uncles and his many cousins.
“Him and Harvey along with Niall were best friends since they were young and went everywhere together, they both had so many friends and were very well liked doing many things together, having fun & laughs!!
“They were loved by not only their families but by their community as well. Belinda, Craig & families, would like to thank everyone for all their kind words, flowers and messages since they lost their son.”
The police watchdog will probe “any interaction” between South Wales Police officers and two teenage boys before they were killed.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said in a statement: “Following a referral from South Wales Police we have decided to independently investigate an incident in Ely, Cardiff, on Monday which resulted in the deaths of two teenagers.
“Our decision to investigate follows our attendance at the police post incident procedure and after a review of the information received to date.
“We will be examining any interaction between the police and the boys after CCTV footage emerged apparently showing a police vehicle following a bike prior to the incident.”