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Crash inquest hears from heartbroken families of Conall Havern, Peter Hughes and Gavin Sloan

By Allan Preston

Published 08/09/2016

Peter Hughes, Conall Havern and Gavin Sloan
Peter Hughes, Conall Havern and Gavin Sloan
Paul Hughes, Peter's father and Joan Havern, Conall's mother
Liam Sloan, Gavin's father, outside court yesterday
Peter Hughes
Gavin Sloan
Conall Havern
Emergency services attend the scene of the fatal car crash
Police at the scene of the crash on the A1 between Dromore and Banbridge last night
Police at the scene of the crash on the A1 between Dromore and Banbridge
The scene of the accident on the A1 which claimed the lives of Peter Hughes, Conall Havern and Gavin Sloan

The mother of a Queen's University student who died in a car crash with two friends last year has said her "whole world fell apart" after she lost her son.

Conall Havern (20) and Peter Hughes (19) - both from Newry - were about to enter their second year of university along with their friend, 20-year-old Gavin Sloan, from Kilkeel, when tragedy struck.

After a weekend spent searching for a house and enjoying a night out, the close friends died in a crash while driving to Newry in torrential rain on August 23 last year.

It is understood that the red Vauxhall Corsa they were travelling in lost control after hitting water on the outside lane of the A1 dual carriageway.

The car swerved and slid over the grass verge into oncoming traffic, hitting a black Volkswagen. All three suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene.

Conall's mother, Joan Havern, told an inquest at Newry Court yesterday how her family was mourning the loss of her husband when her son died.

"Conall was my only son," she said in a witness statement read by the court clerk. "His father Mark passed away in January 2014 following a clot."

"When the police officer explained what happened (to Conall), I couldn't believe it.

"I had lost my husband the previous year and my (three) daughters and I felt our whole world fell apart.

"To have Conall tragically taken from us was something that I will never get over."

Peter Hughes
Peter Hughes
Gavin Sloan
Conall Havern
Emergency services attend the scene of the fatal car crash
Police at the scene of the crash on the A1 between Dromore and Banbridge
Police at the scene of the crash on the A1 between Dromore and Banbridge last night
The scene of the accident on the A1 which claimed the lives of Peter Hughes, Conall Havern and Gavin Sloan

The court heard how the chemical engineering student, "studied hard and was extremely bright". He sat his last university exam just days before the crash and enjoyed Gaelic football, hurling and playing guitar.

Also giving evidence was Liam Sloan, father of law and politics student Gavin.

Mr Sloan's statement said the family became concerned when their son failed to arrive home as planned at 6pm on Sunday.

He told how he began to dread what had happened after hearing a report of a fatal road crash on the 9pm news.

"When police came to my door, I knew for sure something had happened to Gavin - I just could not believe it and take it in," he explained.

"My wife and I were in complete shock that our son could be taken away from us so young. It is a fact that our whole family's lives will never be the same and we'll never get over Gavin's loss."

He told the court his son enjoyed watching DVDs, football, music and reading.

A short statement by Paul Hughes, father of chemical engineering student Peter, who was driving at the time of the accident, was also read out.

Mr Hughes said his son was with good friends when he died and had passed his driving test two years before.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson told the victims' relatives that "a devastating accident has robbed three families of three much-loved sons and has robbed society of three fine young men who had very promising futures ahead of them".

After hearing witness and expert evidence, she said: "Three friends, who were students at Queen's University, Belfast, were travelling from Belfast towards Newry in a Vauxhall Corsa on the A1 dual carriageway.

"The driver was Peter Michael Hughes, the passenger was Conall Havern and the rear seat passenger was Gavin Sloan.

"There had been heavy rainfall, resulting in an area of standing water extending on to the overtaking lane of the Banbridge dual carriageway close to the Mount Ida road junction.

"When the Corsa entered this area of water, the driver lost control and (swerved) in a clockwise rotation, moving across the central reservation into oncoming traffic on the Dromore-bound carriageway.

"The vehicle collided with a Volkswagen that had been travelling in the direction of Dromore.

"All three young men sustained severe multiple injuries which resulted in their rapid deaths. A doctor pronounced life extinct at the scene at 6.20pm."

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