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Proud teen posted photos of new car weeks before crash killed him and pal

By Cate McCurry

Published 23/01/2016

The car that crashed
The car that crashed
The car in which the two teenagers were travelling is removed from the scene of the crash on Cladymilltown Road
Andrew Gass
Mark Hutcheson

One of the two students killed when the vehicle they were in collided with a tree on their way to college proudly posted pictures online of the new car just months before the crash.

Engineering students Andrew Gass, from Tullyallen near Markethill, and Mark Hutcheson, from Mountnorris, were driver and front-seat passenger in Andrew's black Vauxhall Astra.

The car left the Cladymilltown Road between Markethill and Newtownhamilton on Thursday morning.

Dense fog and heavy rain had made visibility extremely poor and conditions treacherous.

The 17-year-olds attended Southern Regional College where they studied fabrication and welding at the Hamiltonsbawn Road campus.

They were going to a skills competition when the car careered off the road and hit the tree.

The pair grew up together and attended Markethill High School before going to college together.

It is understood Andrew obtained his driving licence within the past few months and had recently shown off his new Vauxhall Astra on his Facebook page.

A friend of Andrew's described how he "thought the world" of his new car.

Mark's funeral is today at Tullyallen Presbyterian Church while Andrew's service is tomorrow.

The principal of Markethill High School James Maxwell said the school was "deeply saddened by the news" and a special assembly will be held to remember the lifelong friends.

"Both boys were popular, well-mannered and respected members of the school community who demonstrated passion and commitment towards all aspects of school life," Mr Maxwell added.

"Andrew loved agriculture, vocational courses and was heavily involved in school sports' teams, including rugby and hockey.

"Similarly, Mark excelled in science, agriculture and applied subjects such as carpentry and joinery.

"I have no doubt in my mind that both boys had great futures ahead of them and they will be remembered with fondness for their great generosity of spirit."

Tributes to the pair have flooded their Facebook pages, with one friend describing them as "two genuine, lovely fellas".

The friend wrote: "No one had a bad word to say about either of them. It's hard to believe, really can't come to grips with it at all. They worked hard and partied hard. Cannot think of one bad memory with either of them. They where taken far too early. I knew them 14 out of their 17 years on Earth. Thoughts and prayers are with both families and all friends of these two mad fellas."

A friend of Andrew said: "He was always smiling and thought the world of his family and his car. Little did anyone know what was ahead of them as they travelled to their skill build competition."

Both were members of Mountnorris Young Farmers Club, which called them the "life of the group".

A spokesman said: "They added mischief and fun to every meeting. Both boys were a credit to the Hutcheson and Gass families and the community.

"Both had keen interests within the agricultural industry and Andrew in the previous year held a position on our committee.

"Our prayers and thoughts are extended to these families and their entire family circle and the whole community."

Meanwhile, the pedestrian knocked down near Murlough Bay nature reserve remains in a critical condition in hospital.

The woman, said to be in her 20s, was hit by two cars on a main road bordering the reserve near Dundrum, Co Down.

One shopowner near the scene said no one had heard any name for the woman, which was "unusual in the area as news spreads like wildfire down here".

Others said she must not be a local woman.

Belfast Telegraph

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