Laois crash claims lives of Martin Brophy, Orla Curry and Angela Kelly
Three people, including a mother-of-one, were killed when their car smashed into a heavy metal road sign as they drove to an all-night service station after a 21st birthday party.
Martin Brophy (20), Orla Curry (20) and Angela Kelly (35) all died in the crash outside Rathdowney, Co Laois, in the early hours of yesterday.
Angela's nephew, Jamie (16), a back-seat passenger in the car, suffered serious injuries and was rushed to Tullamore General Hospital.
His condition was described as stable last night.
The single-vehicle accident occurred shortly after 3am at Middlemount on the Abbeyleix-Rathdowney road.
Mr Brophy, who was driving the car, had lost his mother to cancer on Boxing Day, 2013.
Both the dead women - one was in the front passenger seat, the other in the back of the car - suffered critical injuries and were pronounced dead before they could be transferred to hospital.
Gardai closed the road for several hours yesterday while a forensic team attempted to piece together the cause of the accident.
All three were well-known in the area and Ms Kelly was the mother of a one-year-old girl.
The group had been at a 21st birthday party earlier in the night and it is understood they had decided to go to a 24-hour shop afterwards.
Local representatives said that it was "a black day, not just for Rathdowney but for the entire county of Laois. The entire community is in shock after this - it is an awful tragedy, particularly because it involves families that are held in the highest respect and esteem locally," Councillor John King said.
Councillor John Joe Fennelly said there had been a number of serious accidents on stretches of the Abbeyleix-Rathdowney road over recent years.
"It is a terrible accident and my heart goes out to the families involved," he said.
"All we can do now is do everything we can to support them as a community and to keep them in our prayers.
"But it is a desperate tragedy and everyone is numbed by it," he said.
Local parish priest, Fr Martin Delaney, paid tribute to the "incredible work" of the gardai and fire service.
"It's brought a terrible air of sadness to the area," Fr Delaney added.