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Motorist relives horror of fatal smash that claimed lives of Conall Havern, Peter Hughes and Gavin Sloan

By Allan Preston

Published 08/09/2016

The scene of the tragic A1 car crash in which three students died
The scene of the tragic A1 car crash in which three students died

A driver has spoken of the horrific moment her car collided with the vehicle of three young students who all died at the scene.

Jayne Donaghy was driving towards Lisburn on the A1 to collect her daughter when the tragic accident happened.

Police described the weather on the evening of August 23 last year as "horrific", with "torrential" rain.

At yesterday's inquest into the deaths of friends and Queen's students Conall Havern (20), Peter Hughes (19) and Gavin Sloan (20), the court heard a statement from Ms Donaghy, who was absent from the courtroom due to medical reasons.

"I could see this red car," her statement read. "It was heading southbound in the other lane, and it was coming straight towards me over the grass carriageway towards me.

"It appeared to be moving very fast, but not like it was speeding, like it had lost control.

"I tried to steer left, but I just couldn't avoid it It all happened very quickly. After the impact, I remember an intense pain in my right side.

"I was very badly shaken up. I saw the windscreen was shattered and that there was smoke coming from the dashboard."

After calling her husband, Ms Donaghy was attended to by an off-duty nurse until she was cut out of her car and taken to hospital.

"I had a lot of internal bruising and am still in a lot of pain," she said.

Peter Hughes, Conall Havern and Gavin Sloan
Peter Hughes, Conall Havern and Gavin Sloan

Witness Nicola Wilson was in a car with her husband and children a short distance behind the red Corsa when the accident happened.

"I saw a red Corsa overtake us," she explained. "The next thing it hit some water in the outside lane and veered on to the grass verge.

"You could tell they were trying to control it, but it was like a pinball in a pinball machine.

"It just aquaplaned into the grass verge - it just kept going on into the oncoming traffic."

Another witness, Michael Cooper, an off-duty taxi driver, told the court that he narrowly missed being hit by the Corsa when it crossed over the grass verge.

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