Inquest into horror A1 crash concludes

September 12, 2016

The devastated families of three young men killed in a horrific car crash on the A1 dual carriageway listened intently as details of their final moments were recalled during the inquest into the accident last week.

Nineteen-year-old Peter Hughes from Dromintee, Conall Havern (20) from Newry and Gavin Sloan, also 20, from Kilkeel were killed after the red Vauxhall Corsa in which they were travelling collided with a black Volkswagen Tiguan on the A1 on 23rd August last year.

The trio were students of Queen’s University and were returning from the city after organising accommodation for the upcoming term when their car hit a patch of water in the outside lane of the dual carriageway between Banbridge and Dromore shortly after 5.30pm.

Witnesses at the inquest recalled that torrential rain was causing extreme driving difficulties and poor visibility at the time of the crash. They described seeing a pool of water, estimated to have been about three inches deep on the stretch of carriageway.

Witness, Nicola Wilson, told the inquest that once the vehicle hit the patch of water, “It veered one way and then the other……like a pinball in a pinball machine. It just aquaplaned into the grass verge”, as the driver attempted to gain control.  According to Ms Wilson, the car struck a kerb and careered across the central reservation colliding with a vehicle travelling northwards.

Jayne Donaghy, the driver of the Volkswagen Tiguan, said she was unable to avoid the car and described braking and trying to steer away before the impact.

The court heard that among the first people on the scene of the crash were two off-duty police officers and a nurse.  PSNI Constable Sarah McDonnell described the weather at the time as “horrific”.  Making the short run from where she pulled over on the hard shoulder to the Corsa left her “soaked through”, she said.

Detective Constable Sarah Lewis agreed that driving conditions “were extremely poor, and the water wasn’t draining off the road fast enough”.

“It was difficult for my wipers to clear the water off my windscreen in time,” she recalled before revealing she had dealt with numerous road accidents on that stretch of the A1, where traffic slows to pull onto junctions.

The court heard that the driver of the Volkswagen Tiguan, Ms Donaghy, was hurt, while all three men in the Corsa had died at the scene.

Post-mortem details revealed a catalogue of major injuries suffered by the three students with the pathologist finding that each would have died rapidly.

Liam Sloan, father of Gavin Sloan, told the inquest the accident had affected his entire family saying “we will never be the same again”.

Concluding the inquest, Coroner Suzanne Anderson said Mr Hughes lost control of the car due to standing water resulting from heavy rain.

“This devastating accident has robbed three families of three much-loved sons and has robbed society of three fine young men who had very promising futures ahead of them,” she said.