A young man has died and four others remain in hospital today following a “horrific” crash in a stolen car in Co Antrim.
The dead man was named locally as Conor Rules, from the Poleglass area of west Belfast, although his identity still had to be officially confirmed last night.
Two other men in their 20s were on life-support machines in the Royal Victoria Hospital last night. A third man remains seriously ill and the condtion of a fourth man is described as stable.
There were six people inside the Subaru car at the time of the crash near Dundrod, Co Antrim, in the early hours of Monday morning. Two men who were in the car, which was stolen from Maralin Avenue in Lisburn, have been arrested. Four casualties were thrown from the car as it ploughed through a hedge and burst into flames in a field off the Leathemstown Road.
Another man had attempted to leave the scene but was found close by with head injuries. All the men, who were aged in their 20s, come from the west Belfast and Dunmurry areas.
Jim McCarthy, who is the chairman of the Community Safety Group with Colin Neighbourhood Partnership, said: “Everyone is thinking of the friends and family of these young men today. Some have long-term partners and children and are very much loved. We cannot condone what they did, but everyone is supporting their families at this time.
“This behaviour has to stop. Lives are being ruined, not just the people engaging in these behaviours but their loved ones. If anything comes out of this it should be the message that this cannot happen again.”
Emergency crews rushed to the scene of the accident on the Leathemstown Road, near the junction with the Cochranstown Road, just after 6am on Monday morning.
A local resident said her husband heard a loud bang as they were sleeping and realised it was a car crash.
“The hedge was ripped out and we could see smoke coming from the car which had caught fire,” she said. Two fire engines put out the blaze and two men from the car had to be resuscitated at the scene.
“It’s just a tragedy,” the eye-witness said. “I thought this morning, that’s somebody’s sons. I don’t know what the police can do about the speeding on this road. In the early hours of the morning you’d think some of the drivers were going to take off in the air.”
A police cordon sealed off the road near the crash for most of |the day, reopening around 5pm yesterday. According to residents, speeding and fatalities are a familiar occurrence on the Leathemstown Road, which is several miles of hilly, twisting road, with breath-taking views of Lough Neagh.
Anyone who witnessed the incident or has information should contact police by calling 0845 600 8000 or the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.