A friend of the victims of a car crash in Cardiff that left three dead has criticised the search efforts of the police, claiming members of the public found the vehicle before officers.
Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, died in the accident while Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, survived but remain in a critical condition, according to police. All five were in a Volkswagen Tiguan that came off the A48(M) in Cardiff and crashed into trees.
The three women were last seen in Cardiff in the early hours of Saturday (4 March) having travelled there from Porthcawl. They had earlier been in Newport and were reported missing to Gwent Police. The two men, who were from Cardiff, were also reported missing by their families.
The car was discovered shortly after midnight on Monday (6 March) in the St Mellons area of the capital, after police issued an appeal on Sunday. It was also reported that a police helicopter searching for the car found it.
However, a friend of the three women claimed that it was a search party made up of members of the public who found the car.
Tamzin Samuels, 20 was quoted as saying by Sky News: “I do think the police could have done a lot more in putting the helicopters out earlier. They only posted the appeal an hour before the girls were found.
“We found them before the police found them - we rang the police.
“The search party found the girls before the police found the girls. I think that speaks volumes really, they had all that equipment, and we had cars when we were looking.”
Police 'told mother to stop ringing'
It has also been claimed that police told the mother of one of the victims to stop calling them. Ms Russon's mother Anna Certowicz, 42, told the Daily Mail that officers had told her to "stop ringing" the station for news after reporting her daughter missing.
"I had to drive to Cardiff to knock on doors myself because they were doing s*d all. They just didn't seem to think it was worth investigating. It was so frustrating," she told the paper.
Ms Certowicz also told the Mail: "It's too awful to imagine what she went through trapped in the car in the dark until it got light and then dark again over two days.
"Sophie was lying there for all that time, they could all have been found much quicker if the police had started searching straight away."
Man arrested at the scene
Thomas Taylor, 47, from Cardiff, was arrested at the scene to prevent a breach of the peace after being asked to leave the area. He later told the PA news agency he had been taken to Rumney police station and later released.
Speaking before he was arrested, Mr Taylor, a film and TV extra, told PA: “When I heard the reports, I just couldn’t believe it could be possible that a car could come off and no one know they were there. I still don’t understand it.
“It worries me, and I feel for the families because from what I can see from the reports they did have a feeling something was wrong and they were flagging it up. Their instincts were correct.
“I have some fears that perhaps when the reports came they had gone missing people (and) thought, ‘Oh, it’s just a night out’. It’s natural they might have disappeared for a bit but the families’ instincts are right.”
What have police said?
South Wales Police (SWP) said on Monday evening that their investigation into the incident is continuing. Both SWP and neighbouring force Gwent Police, who were leading the missing persons investigation prior to the discovery of the car, said they have referred themselves to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) “in line with normal procedure”.
An IOPC spokesman said: “We can confirm that Gwent Police have advised us that they are making a referral in connection with this tragic incident and we will carry out an assessment in due course to determine what further action may be required from us.”
Fundraiser launched for families
Meanwhile, a fundraising page has been launched, to support the families of the victims of the tragedy.
A description on the GoFundMe page reads: "Due to the recent accident that has cost the lives of 3 beautiful angels, I'm asking individuals to give as much or as little as possible to support the families involved.
"Eve Smith, Darcy Ross, and Rafel Jeanne sadly lost their lives to a tragic car accident over the weekend, that has also left Sophie Russon, and Shane Loughlin in a critical condition. I’m not going to put too much detail of the incident here as I don’t think it’s fair for individuals and family member to have to keep reliving what’s happened.
"Eve's family are very well known by myself, and I know that all individuals involved were very well known and loved by hundreds of others so any support would be greatly appreciated.
A spokesperson from GoFundMe told NationalWorld that they are holding the funds until they have finished working with the organiser to ensure the money is delivered to the families safely.