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Group trapped in Cardiff car crash that killed three 'had been drinking and inhaling laughing gas'
9 August 2023, 13:34
The group trapped in a crashed car in Cardiff had been drinking and inhaling nitrous oxide, a friend has told police.
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Driver Rafel Jeanne, 24, and passengers Darcy Ross, 21, and Eve Smith, 21, died in the crash, while the two remaining passengers, Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, were injured but survived.
The accident happened on the A48(M) near the St Mellons area of Cardiff at 2.03am on Saturday March 4 this year when a Volkswagen Tiguan veered off a slip road approaching a roundabout into trees.
The five were discovered on Monday March 6, around 46 hours after the crash happened.
Court papers revealed that the group had been drinking alcohol and inhaling nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas – before the incident.
The details emerged in a behind-closed-doors hearing at Cardiff Magistrates' Court for Joel Lia, the sixth member of the group, who had been driving the car an hour before the crash.
Lia, 28, from Rumney, Cardiff, was charged with driving without a licence or insurance in Porthcawl.
His case is being dealt with under a system known as the single justice procedure, where magistrates handle non-custodial criminal prosecutions in private rather than open court.
Detective Constable Joanne Mahony took a witness statement from Lia in which he admitted to driving the vehicle without a licence.
"During the course of the statement, Joel stated that he had driven along the M4 from Porthcawl to his sister's address in Llanederyn at approximately 1am on March 4," she said.
"Whilst the interview was not monitored, Lia asked me if anything would happen to him as he knew he did not hold a full UK driving licence and he had admitted driving.
"In light of this investigation CCTV inquiries were conducted along the route of the M4 towards Cardiff to capture the vehicle."
CCTV from a Porthcawl petrol station showed the card pull up an hour before the incident at 1.08am and leave just three minutes later.
"On stopping at the garage, Joel Lia exits the rear offside of the vehicle and, when the driver exits the driver's seat, Joel Lia then enters the driver's seat. He then drives the vehicle off the forecourt," police documents stated.
"All other persons in the vehicle were intoxicated, by Joel's admission, as they had been drinking alcohol and inhaling nitrous oxide throughout the course of the evening.
"The vehicle did not display L plates which can be seen on CCTV. The officer in the case has reviewed the CCTV as part of this unrelated case and can positively identify Joel Lia as the person entering the driver's seat."
Lia pleaded guilty to both charges and the case was adjourned until August 24 to await the findings of further histology and toxicology tests.
An initial inquest was told that the three who died were declared dead at the scene of the crash.