Questions continue to be asked over why it took police nearly two days to find five young people who were involved in a car crash after a night out that left three of them dead.
The bodies of Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, were pulled from the wreckage of a car in St Mellons, Cardiff on Monday morning – 46 hours after they were last seen.
Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, were found alive, having spent two days critically injured next to their dead friends.
As they fought for their lives in hospital last night, Ms Russon’s mother told how she had spent two days driving around South Wales frantically searching for her daughter after, she claimed, police told her to ‘stop calling’.
Anna Certowicz, 41, said she drove past the site where the white VW Tiguan was found three times in her desperate hunt, passing within 20 yards of the SUV that was hidden by trees.
Meanwhile, other volunteers who had joined the search for the missing five have said the fact a dogwalker found the wreckage before police ‘speaks volumes.’
South Wales Police and Gwent Police have since referred the matter to the Independent Office For Police conduct.
Sophie’s mother Anna Certowicz, 42, (left) was driving around the Gwent and Cardiff areas late into Sunday night in a desperate search for her daughter (right), who is in hospital fighting for her life
A timeline shows how the five tragic friends’ accident occurred
The scene in the St Mellons area of Cardiff where three people who disappeared on a night out have died in a road traffic accident. Two others who had also been reported missing have been transported to hospital with serious injuries
It is believed the car carrying the five young people collided with this tree
Mother-of-three Anna was one of 200 people out searching for Sophie, her friends Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and two men named as Rafel Jeanne, 24, and Shane Loughlin, 32.
She revealed that her daughter was ‘conscious some of the time’ in the car after it ran off the A48 in Cardiff and had ‘called out but no one was close enough to hear her.’
She told the Daily Mail: ‘I feel terrible for the families of Eve and Darcy, they were all best friends and had known each other since they were small’, adding the only people who knew what happened were her daughter and the other survivor Shane, who only met the girls for the first time on Friday night.
Sophie is critical but stable in hospital and undergoing surgery for a bleed on the brain and fractures to her neck, spine, and face.
Ms Certowicz said: ‘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.’
Ms Certowicz said she made her first call to Gwent Police at noon on Saturday. She made ten calls that day but police kept telling her not to worry, and that Ms Russon was ‘probably out partying’, she said.
It was not until more than a day later, just after 11pm on Sunday, that Gwent Police finally put out their own public appeal.
Bank worker Sophie was eventually found and cut out of the VW Tiguan where she spent two days knowing her friends were dead alongside her.
Eve and Rafel died in the crash in the early hours of Saturday morning. Anna said the only people who knew what happened were her daughter and the other survivor Shane Loughlin.
All five victims who had been out together in Cardiff and Newport were found shortly after midnight last night.
Speaking at the scene, a friend of the three girls claimed it was members of the public searching who found them and not the police.
Tamzin Samuels, 20, said: ‘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.
‘They were really popular girls, the life of the party, and it was really out of character for them to do what they did, which is why we knew something was wrong.’
MailOnline has approached Gwent Police for more clarity on the search effort.
South Wales Police has confirmed that both it and Gwent Police has referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Assistant Chief Constable Jason Davies of South Wales Police said: ‘Our thoughts are with the families of all those affected by this tragic incident. Specialist officers are carrying out an investigation to piece together what has happened. Family liaison officers are supporting the families involved at what must be a hugely difficult time for them.
‘To ensure independent oversight, South Wales Police has referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, as is usual in these circumstances.’
Eve Smith, 21, (pictured) whose sister Xana was killed by a drug and drink driver in 2015, has died in a crash where police took 48 hours to find the car containing five people
Darcy Ross and Sophie Russon (left to right) are among those missing. Relatives of the three women said none of them have been seen or heard from since 2am on Saturday
Shane Loughlin, 32, and Rafel Jeanne-Actie, 24, (left to right) were expected to travel 35 miles away to Porthcawl but never arrived
The white Volkswagen Tiguan involved in the crash is removed from the woods this afternoon
A group of people lay floral tributes left near the scene in the St Mellons area of Cardiff where three people who disappeared on a night out have died in a road traffic accident
Floral tributes left near the scene in the St Mellons area of Cardiff where three people who disappeared on a night out have died in a road traffic accident
Anna also hit out at Gwent Police for not responding urgently when the five were reported missing.
She said: ‘They didn’t take it seriously, they kept saying she’s 20 and they are all probably out partying.
‘I told them my daughter doesn’t go out on three day benders – she and her friends are good girls. It was out of character for all of them.
‘I was ringing the police all through Saturday and Sunday but they didn’t seem bothered.
‘Then all of a sudden, I don’t know what happened, but the police started ringing me asking for a photograph and a description.’
A police helicopter was launched to search for the missing five but the car was found by a young woman out searching for the group.
Anna said: ‘We all knew it was something serious, all their phones went off line at the same time.
‘But the police didn’t listen, they didn’t want to know, it’s disgraceful’.
Anna said she and other parents were kept waiting for two hours at the scene where they could hear firemen cutting up the car to reach the victims inside.
She said: ‘No one came over to tell us what was going on, it’s a parents worst nightmare but we didn’t get any support.
‘It wasn’t even the helicopter who found them even though it flew over a few times.
‘It was one of the volunteer searchers with a dog, if she hadn’t gone into the trees they would still be there now.’
Gwent Police has been referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct who will carry out an investigation.
Anna said the car landed on its front and was tilted up in the air with Sophie, a trainee manager with Lloyds Bank, trapped by her seat belt which caused her burn injuries.
She said: ‘I have seen her in hospital, she’s all tubed up and we still don’t know if she’s going to survive. The next 48 hours are critical.’
Anna said she has been told three of the people inside the car died on impact but added that the only people who knew what happened were her daughter and the other survivor Shane Loughlin.
Mr Loughlin, a father who runs a bouncy castle hire company in Cardiff, is also on the critical list the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
Rafel Jeanne (pictured) is the son of former Cardiff City and QPR footballer Leon Jeanne (right), who was once dubbed Wales’ most promising footballer before being jailed in a drugs case
Darcy Ross and Rafel Jeanne partying together in Newport on the night they were last seen
The scene in the St Mellons area of Cardiff where three people who disappeared on a night out have died in a road traffic accident
Police have sealed off the accident scene next to a roundabout at the top of a slip road coming off the A48M
A message left with floral tributes left near the scene in the St Mellons area of Cardiff
‘RIP Darcy’: A message left with floral tributes left near the scene in the St Mellons area
Rafel Jeanne is believed to be a relative of former Queens Park Rangers footballer Leon Jeanne, 42, a convicted drug dealer.
Police have sealed off the accident scene next to a roundabout at the top of a slip road coming off the A48M.
The relatives and friends of ‘bubbly and beautiful’ Eve Smith today confirmed she has died – in a double tragedy for the family. Her older sibling Lauren Doyle wrote on Facebook: ‘I will not comment on anyone other than Eve Smith to confirm that she has been confirmed as deceased’.
Eve’s sister Xana was killed in a car crash in January 2015 caused by a male driver who was drunk while high on cocaine and cannabis, MailOnline has learned. Eve and her family appeared in a Sky documentary ‘This is Our Family’ calling for tougher sentences for dangerous drivers. They were followed by a camera crew for three years.
Police are today probing how the car lay undiscovered for 48 hours off one of South Wales’ busiest roads, with two people alive and three dead among them. Firefighters were seen carrying stretchers and cutting equipment towards the car this morning. The car was removed on a flatbed truck at lunchtime after a private ambulance arrived to carry away the dead.
Eve (left with mother Emma, stepfather Tony and her brother) in the Sky TV show This is Our Family, which followed their lives after the death of her sister Xana in a car crash in 2015
Eve Smith’s sister Xana Doyle (left, and together right) was killed by a drunk and drugged up driver in 2015
Mike Holmes, 52, a driver at the scene on the outskirts of Cardiff this morning, said: ‘It’s incredible that thousands of cars must have gone past without knowing. My heart goes out to the families, it’s awful to think they were in the car and so close to people going by.’
Gwent Police today revealed they found three bodies in the early hours of this morning. Two people have been rushed to hospital with serious injuries. The force has not revealed who has been found dead or alive. BBC Wales is reporting that Ms Russon is in hospital with serious injuries.
Rafel Jeanne is believed to be the son of former Cardiff City and QPR footballer Leon Jeanne, who was once dubbed Wales’ most promising footballer. In 2019 Mr Jeanne was convicted of dangerous driving after being chased by police at 100mph on the same road where his son was found today. In 2015 he was jailed for 30 months for his part in a plot to supply cocaine.
Rafel also died it has been confirmed.
Specialist officers are supporting the families of those involved and inquiries are ongoing.
Eve Smith’s family confirmed that she had died, as have a number of social media posts from friends.
One said on Facebook: ‘Gutted and shocked to wake up to the news that Eve Smith and 2 others have passed away.
‘Such a kind hearted strong women, it don’t seem real, such a young age. So, so, so sad. Taken way too soon. RIP Eve.’
Another said: ‘One of the kindest girls with a heart of gold. rest in peace girl and i’m so annoyed that you got taken away from us so soon.
‘It should have never happened, but one thing for sure you will never be forgotten.’
Eve’s family dealt with a similar tragedy in 2015, when sister Xana died.
Sakhawat Ali, then 23, who was high on cocaine and cannabis and twice the drink-drive limit, had given Xana a lift home from a party. She was a passenger when the flipped over at 60mph in January 2015.
After Xana was killed, Eve paid an emotional tribute to her saying she had ‘tragically lost my beautiful big sister’.
A private ambulance at the scene of an accident on the A48 to carry away the dead
Eve in the documentary that charted how families deal with trauma after Xana’s death
A firefighter carries what appears to be a stretcher into the trees where the car was found just yards off a major road on the outskirts of Cardiff
Colleagues were seen carrying cutting equipment into the trees off a slip road on the A48
A group of people lay floral tributes left near the scene in the St Mellons area of Cardiff today
Eve, who was 13 at the time, wrote on Facebook: ‘I never ever thought I’d have to say that or even think about it but it’s all I do. No-one will understand the agony and heartache I feel when I hear her name or see her picture. It’s so hard to understand or accept that she’s gone and I’m never going to be able to see her again. A million times I’ve needed her and a million times I’ve cried. If my love alone could have saved her she never would have died.’
Their father is Tony Borg, a former boxer who trained Welsh Olympic medal winning boxers and world champion Lee Selby. The family called for tougher sentences for drivers who killed people in car crashes and appeared in a Sky documentary about their lives with a crew that followed them around for three years.
After Sakhawat Ali, 23, was jailed for eight years for causing the teenager’s death, mum Emma revealed her grief in a personal statement which was read out in court. She said: ‘Watching her brother, Zaine, and sisters, Lauren and Eve, trying to continue with life in so much pain is heartbreaking. ‘
‘They not only lost their beloved sister that day but they also lost their mother, as I am not and can never be the same person again. Truthfully, if I didn’t have my other children to care for I would not be here today as this pain is unbearable. She is not here and she never will be again. This nightmare is real and is never going to end.’
Emma added: ‘I can not accept that this is real, I am in a permanent daze, trying to carry on with the mundane tasks of life in an attempt to provide my children with some normality.
‘I will never see Xana get married, have children, and be successful in her chosen field of work. There will always be an empty place at our table, a hole in our hearts that cannot be filled, and there won’t be one day that we don’t mourn her. Each family celebration will be bitter sweet, knowing that she is not there to share the joy and be the life and soul of the party that she was.’
The missing group had all been partying at the Muffler bar and club in Maesglas, Newport, on Friday evening, before they are thought to have headed to Trecco Bay in Porthcawl. They were last seen at 2am on Saturday morning.
CCTV from a petrol station captured them at around 2am on Saturday morning – the last sighting. It came shortly after Darcy and Rafel shared a Snapchat post of themselves together on Friday night.
Family of the missing friends shared this CCTV of the car before it was found close to a busy A-road in South Wales this morning
Road traffic experts from South Wales Police were seen marking an area by a kerb this morning. Drivers said the car was found in trees just off the A48
Families were ‘worried sick’ and took to social media to beg people to scour country lanes to search for the missing people named as Sophie Russon, 20, Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, Rafel Jeanne, 24, and Shane Loughlin, 32.
Police confirmed three of the group were found dead near the village of St Mellons, Cardiff, and two were seriously injured.