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Cardiff crash: Hundreds gather for roadside vigil after three die in collision

Fireworks lit up the sky above St Mellons, Cardiff, after three people were killed and two remain in a critical condition.

Watch: Hundreds attend vigil for Cardiff car crash victims

Hundreds of people gathered to the Cardiff crash site on Tuesday to pay tribute to three people who died in a collision as they made their way home from a night out.

Fireworks were set off for Eve Smith and Darcy Ross, both 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, who died in the crash, while friends and family also lit candles and flares for Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, who remain in a critical condition.

Earlier this week, Smith’s sister, Sheridan Borg, said she was “feeling so empty” following the death of her sister, while more tributes were paid by those who gathered on Tuesday.

The crash happened after a Volkswagen Tiguan the group were in left the A48(M) in Cardiff and hit trees in the St Mellons area of the city on Friday night.

People attend a vigil in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, in memory of Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, who died in a road traffic accident, while Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, survived but remain in a critical condition. Picture date: Tuesday March 7, 2023. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
People attend a vigil in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, in memory of Eve Smith, Darcy Ross and Rafel Jeanne. (PA/Getty)
Cardiff crash victims (clockwise from top left): Darcy Ross, Sophie Russon, Eve Smith, Shane Loughlin and Rafel Jeanne. (Wales News)
Cardiff crash victims (clockwise from top left): Darcy Ross, Sophie Russon, Eve Smith, Shane Loughlin and Rafel Jeanne. (Wales News)

They had been to a social club in Maesglas, Newport, and are thought to have then travelled 40 miles to the Trecco Bay area of Porthcawl.

After failing to go home, the five were reported missing by their families.

At Tuesday’s gathering, around 1,000 people gathered and rode mopeds, motorbikes and quad bikes around the roundabout, while fireworks lit up the sky above St Mellons for around 30 minutes.

Police forces are under investigation for their response to the missing crash victims amid allegations they did not take matters seriously.

People attend a vigil in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, in memory of Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, who died in a road traffic accident, while Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, survived but remain in a critical condition. Picture date: Tuesday March 7, 2023. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
Around 1,000 people gathered to pay tribute to the victims of the crash. (PA/Getty)
People attend a vigil in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, in memory of Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, who died in a road traffic accident, while Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, survived but remain in a critical condition. Picture date: Tuesday March 7, 2023. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
Fireworks lit up the sky above St Mellons for 30 minutes. (PA/Getty)

Russon’s mother, Anna Certowicz, 42, said her daughter was lying for 46 hours next to her three dead friends while desperately calling for help.

Jeanne’s sister, Ffion Actie, told Sky News at the vigil she feels “disappointed” police did not act sooner.

She said: “I heard the girls’ mums had contacted (police) but it had taken several hours (to respond).

“I feel they should have acted straight away.”

People attend a vigil in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, in memory of Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, who died in a road traffic accident, while Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, survived but remain in a critical condition. Picture date: Tuesday March 7, 2023. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
Friends and family at the vigil hit out at the police response to the crash. (PA/Getty)

Actie added: “I like to think that if (police) got there sooner, it would have been a different outcome.”

Rachel O’Neill, 37, from Rumney, who attended the vigil with her daughter Molly, said that “there could have been some lives saved” if the police had acted faster to find the group.

The first call reporting the victims as missing was made to police at 7.34pm on Saturday, while further reports were made up until 5.37pm on Sunday.

Hundreds of people took part in searches but Gwent Police did not issue a public appeal for help until 11pm on Sunday.

People attend a vigil in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, in memory of Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, who died in a road traffic accident, while Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, survived but remain in a critical condition. Picture date: Tuesday March 7, 2023. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
People at the vigil paid tribute to the victims of the crash. (PA/Getty)

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has now launched an investigation into two police forces over their response.

David Ford, IOPC director, said: “After careful assessment of referrals from Gwent Police and South Wales Police, we have decided to independently investigate how police responded to the missing person reports.

“We will be examining what information police had, the grading given to any risk assessments and the steps taken by police to locate the missing people prior to the Volkswagen Tiguan being found just after midnight on Monday.

“We will also consider what communication took place between the two forces and whether police action was appropriate and followed relevant policy and procedures.”

Balloons, cards and photographs were left at the scene of the crash. (PA)
Balloons, cards and photographs were left at the scene of the crash. (PA)

Police have confirmed the group were last seen at about 2am on Saturday in Pentwyn, Cardiff.

In a joint statement, Gwent Police and South Wales Police said a helicopter was asked to search an area of Cardiff at 11.50pm on Sunday.

The forces added that Gwent Police officers on the ground had sight of the car at 12.02am on Monday and South Wales Police created a log at 12.15am.

But members of the friends’ search party, Matthew Pace, 45, and his son Lewis, 26, told Sky News they found the car shortly before officers arrived after seeing tyre marks leading off the road and into a wooded area.

People attend a vigil in the St Mellons area of Cardiff, in memory of Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, who died in a road traffic accident, while Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, survived but remain in a critical condition. Picture date: Tuesday March 7, 2023. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
The vigil saw friends and family pay tribute to the crash victims. (PA/Getty)

Tributes to those who died have been paid on social media.

A friend of Loughlin posted: “I’m so proud of us all pulling together out there searching for our dear friends last night.

“It’s heart breaking what’s happened to Rafel Jeanne and those two girls. My body is still shaking and I can’t stop being sick (at) the thought of them all there all of that time.”

In a statement, Smith’s family asked for their privacy to be respected.

They added: “We want to allow Gwent Police and South Wales Police the time and space to investigate the matter in a thorough and professional way and to enable the IOPC thereafter to come to their own conclusions.”