Police are continuing to investigate the events leading up to a horror crash in Cardiff that left three people dead, as the five revelers involved were found to have driven 90 miles in the hours leading up to the tragedy.
Best friends Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Sophie Russon, 20, had driven to the Maesglas Sports and Social Club in Newport, South Wales at around 11pm on Friday, where they met Rafel Jeanne, 24, and Shane Loughlin , 32.
According to Mrs. Russon’s mother, Anna Certowicz, they had never seen the two men before. A Snapchat photo from the evening shows Mr. Jeanne with an arm around Ms. Ross.
The group set off in Mrs Smith’s white BMW hatchback to travel 36 miles to Trecco Bay caravan park in Porthcawl, where Mr Loughlin’s family has a caravan. Their car was then seen on CCTV at 2am in Cardiff, where they reportedly dropped off an unnamed man.
Their car later crashed into trees on a dual carriageway in St Mellons, Cardiff. While the exact route the group traveled is not known, a direct journey would have taken them about 85 miles.
The bodies of Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Ross and Mr. Jeanne were pulled from the wreckage, while Mrs Russon and Mr. Loughlin were found alive spent two days badly injured next to their deceased friends.
Best friends Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Sophie Russon, 20, met Rafel Jeanne, 24, and Shane Loughlin, 32, at a Newport social club
Darcy Ross and Rafel Jeanne are partying together in Newport on Friday night
As the pair continue to fight for their lives in the hospital, police are increasingly questioned about why it took them 46 hours to find them. Gwent Police and South Wales Police have now referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct.
On Saturday around 9 p.m., a missing person was reported to the Gwent police. the Telegraph reported, citing police sources.
Yet no official appeal came until just after 11 p.m. on Sunday — more than a day later.
Meanwhile, relatives were frantically searching for information on social media and had even started looking for their relatives themselves.
Ms. Russon’s mother, Anna Certowicz, said she was shocked by the apparent lack of concern among officers when she first reported her daughter missing.
In response, she was forced to mount her own search around Gwent and Cardiff after police told her to stop calling the station for updates.
“They didn’t seem to care,” said 42-year-old Ms Certowicz. “I had to drive to Cardiff myself to knock on the door because they were all digging. They just didn’t seem to think it was worth investigating. It was so frustrating.
‘I think they thought Sophie was hungover somewhere, but she’s a sensible girl who works in a bank and hasn’t taken a day off in three years.
‘She’s not one to go out all the time in Cardiff. She’s more likely to babysit on Friday nights so other people can go out. She wouldn’t just disappear unless something was wrong.’
Families of the missing friends shared these CCTV footage from their car on the night of the tragedy
Ms Russon’s mother, Anna Certowicz, 42, (left) believes her daughter and her two friends first met Mr Jeanne and Mr Loughlin on the night of the tragedy
Ms Certowicz said she drove past the spot where the white VW Tiguan was found three times during her desperate hunt, passing within 20 meters of the SUV hidden by trees.
Meanwhile, volunteers who joined the search for the missing five said the fact that a dog walker found the wreckage before police “speaks volumes.”
South Wales Police and Gwent Police have since referred the case to the Independent Office For Police Conduct.
Ms Certowicz was one of 200 people searching for Sophie, her friends Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and two men named Rafel Jeanne, 24, and Shane Loughlin, 32.
She revealed that her daughter was ‘conscious at times’ in the car after it drove off the A48 in Cardiff and had ‘called out but no one was close enough to hear her’.
She said, “I feel terrible for Eve and Darcy’s families, they were all best friends and have known each other since they were little,” adding that the only people who knew what happened were her daughter and the other survivor Shane , who only meets the girls for the first time on Friday night.
Sophie is critical but stable in hospital and undergoes surgery for a brain haemorrhage and fractures to her neck, spine and face.
Ms Certowicz said: ‘It’s too horrifying to imagine what she went through being trapped in the car in the dark until it got light and then dark again for two days.
“Sophie was lying there the whole time, they could all have been found much faster if the police had started looking right away.”
Ms Certowicz said she first called Gwent police at noon on Saturday.
She called 10 times that day, but the police kept telling her not to worry and that Ms. Russon was “probably partying,” she said.
It wasn’t until more than a day later, just after 11 p.m. on Sunday, that Gwent police finally made their own public appeal.
Eve Smith, 21, (pictured) whose sister Xana was killed by a drug and drink driver in 2015, died in the accident
Mrs Smith was good friends with Darcy Ross and Sophie Russon (left and right)
Shane Loughlin, 32, and Rafel Jeanne-Actie, 24, met the women at a social club in Newport
Her daughter was eventually found and cut out of the VW Tiguan, where she spent two days knowing her friends were dead next to her.
Mrs. Smith and Mr. Jeanne died in the accident early Saturday morning.
Ms Certowicz said the only people who knew what happened were her daughter and the other survivor, Mr Loughlin.
All five victims who had been together in Cardiff and Newport were found shortly after midnight on Sunday.
A friend of the three girls said at the scene that the police ‘could have done more’.
Tamzin Samuels, 20, said: ‘They only placed the call an hour before the girls were found. We found them before the police found them – we called the police.
“The search found the girls before the police. I think that speaks volumes, 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 really wasn’t in their nature to do what they were doing, which is why we knew something was wrong.”
MailOnline has approached Gwent Police for more clarity on the search effort.
Mr Jeanne (left) is the son of former Cardiff City and QPR footballer Leon Jeanne (right), who was once dubbed Wales’ most promising footballer before being imprisoned in a drug case
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 accident in 2015
Eve Smith’s sister Xana Doyle (left and together right) was killed in 2015 by a drunk and drugged driver
South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Jason Davies confirmed that the police watchdog would now investigate what happened.
“Our thoughts are with the families of all the victims of this tragic incident,” he said.
Specialized agents are conducting an investigation to find out what happened.
“Family liaison officers are supporting the families involved in what must be an extremely difficult time for them.
“To ensure independent oversight, South Wales Police have referred the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, as is customary in these circumstances.”
Details of the victims have emerged as police continue to analyze the events leading up to the crash.
Rafel Jeanne is believed to be a relative of former Queens Park Rangers football player Leon Jeanne, 42.
Their car later crashed into trees on a dual carriageway in St Mellons, Cardiff
The crash site was hidden from passing motorists by the trees
Meanwhile, Eve Smith tragically lost her sister Xana who died in a car accident in January 2015.
Sakhawat Ali, then 23, high on cocaine and cannabis and twice the drunk driving limit, had given Xana a ride home from a party.
She was a passenger when she flipped over at 100 km/h in January 2015.
Eve and Xana’s stepfather is Tony Borg, a former boxer who trained Welsh Olympic medal winning boxers and world champion Lee Selby.
After Xana was killed, Eve paid an emotional tribute to her by saying that she had “tragaically lost my beautiful big sister.”
Eve and her family appeared in a Sky documentary ‘This is Our Family’ which called for tougher penalties for dangerous drivers.
For three years they were followed by a camera crew.
Police today are investigating how the car lay undetected on one of South Wales’ busiest roads for 48 hours, with two people alive and three dead among them.
Firefighters carried stretchers and cutting equipment to the car this morning.
The car was taken off on a flatbed truck at lunchtime after a private ambulance arrived to carry the dead away.