Families and friends are angry that it took up to 46 hours to find five people in the wreckage of a car crash that killed three and seriously hurt two others.
When the three young women and two young men didn’t come home from a Friday night out in Newport, south Wales, their friends and family raised the alarm.
Hundreds of people helped look for the car, but Gwent police didn’t ask for help from the public until 11 p.m. on Sunday. The car was finally found just after midnight on Monday. The car went off a slip road and ended up in a small group of evergreen trees, away from houses and a busy garden centre.
Eve Smith, Darcy Ross, both 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, were found dead in the car in St. Mellons, Cardiff, near the A48(M). Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, were badly hurt when the VW Tiguan they were in crashed and their friends died next to them. Monday night, police said that the two survivors were still in very bad shape in the hospital.
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On Monday, dozens of friends and family members of the five left flowers and balloons near the copse. After the car was taken away, many of them looked at the tyre tracks on the grass verge that led from the slip road into the copse and the tree that the car had hit.
Many of them said that members of the public search party found the car, but Gwent police said that a police helicopter saw it first.
Tamzin Samuels, 20, a carer who joined the search for her friends, said –
“I do think the police could have done a lot more – put up the helicopter earlier. They only posted an appeal an hour before the girls were found. The search party found the girls before the police. I think that speaks volumes, really. It’s so public [the crash site] – a main roundabout, a main road.”
“These girls were so popular. They were the life of the party. Darcy lived life to the fullest. She was great. Eve had a smile that could brighten a room as soon as she walked in. A real feisty, independent girl but everyone loved her just as much.”
Another friend, Rhian Taylor, 26, said –
“Those poor young girls could have been saved if they were found earlier. Thousands of people must have driven past. Why did it take so long to find them?”
A friend of the Loughlin family, who asked not to be named, said –
“The police were terrible. I don’t think they took it seriously. The families said it was out of character for them to go missing. The police should have listened.”
The Gwent police said they had told the Independent Office for Police Conduct about the case. An IOPC spokesperson said –
“We will carry out an assessment in due course to determine what further action may be required.”
It is the second time that someone in Eve Smith’s family has died on the road. Her sister Xana Doyle, who was 19 years old, died in 2015 when the car she was riding in flipped over.
The driver, Sakhawat Ali, was 23 years old at the time and had been using drugs and drinking too much. He went to jail for five years.
On Friday night, the five of them went to a social club in Maesglas, Newport. On Saturday, they were going to drive 40 miles to the seaside town of Porthcawl. Around 2 a.m. Saturday in Cardiff was the last time they were seen.
A friend of Russon’s family said that her mother, Anna Certowicz, was upset with how the police handled the situation. She said that the police told her to stop calling them to find out what was going on.
The neighbour, who asked not to be named, said –
“She was very angry. She said they [the police] just weren’t that interested. She was told: ‘They’ll turn up soon enough, probably with just a hangover.’”
South Wales police, who are leading the investigation as the crash happened on their patch, said on Monday evening:
“Investigations are ongoing to determine the circumstances of the incident, including when the collision took place. The five individuals were the subject of enquiries by Gwent police following a missing person report made during the evening of Saturday 4 March. A subsequent missing person report in respect of one of the individuals was made to South Wales police on Sunday 5 March.”
“Referrals have been made by Gwent police and South Wales police to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. The last confirmed sighting of the five was during the early hours of Saturday morning.”
Our coverage of the car accident in Cardiff, in which three people lost their lives, comes to an end here. Police were criticised after car accident after car accident went unnoticed for up to 46 hours.