Gardaí investigating the deaths of three men in a head-on collision with a truck in Dublin believe the men were trying to evade officers at the time and deliberately drove the wrong way down the N7 in Co Dublin in the hope they would not be pursued.
While the men have not been formally identified, and that process may take several days, gardaí believe they know who the men were.
Detectives were on Thursday waiting for the identification process to confirm their suspicions as to the identity of the men.
Gardaí suspect the victims were from Tallaght, west Dublin, in their 20s and 30s, who had amassed a very significant number of convictions during their lives. All three had also served multiple terms of imprisonment, including some very serious dangerous driving crimes.
However, sources said while gardaí very strongly believed they know who was in the car, they must wait for the formal identification process, including DNA analysis, before they could be certain. As the men’s car was damaged by fire, while the three deceased were inside, the identification process may take several days.
Gardaí said the crash happened at about 11.40pm on the N7 at Rathcoole on Wednesday, between Citywest and Baldonnell. The car the three deceased men were in, a 2006 BMW 3 series, was driving in the wrong direction on the inbound carriageway when it hit the lorry.
The three occupants of the car were killed as a result of the collision and their car going on fire at the scene. The driver of the lorry was taken to University Hospital Tallaght for treatment for injuries that are said to be serious but not life-threatening.
Gardaí are believed to have commenced a pursuit of the men's BMW in the Tallaght area prior to the collision, according to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc). Gardaí said they had interacted with the car before the crash but they were not pursuing the car when it crashed.
It is understood gardaí saw the men in their car driving erratically late on Wednesday night, with the men also spotting the Garda car and fleeing. While gardaí followed the BMW carrying the three men they did not pursue it the wrong way down the N7.
It was decided the Garda helicopter would instead track the men’s vehicle from above. But before that monitoring could begin, the men’s car crashed into the oncoming lorry. The incident was effectively ended with the death of the three men, with the scene of the crash sealed off and the truck driver taken to hospital.
A Garda superintendent referred the matter to Gsoc, which is obliged to investigate any incident involving the death of a person, or injury caused to a person, at or around the time they had any form of contact or interaction with Garda members.
Gsoc officers have been to the scene and are examining the circumstances of the incident. The commission is appealing to any potential witnesses or anyone who may have dashcam or mobile footage from the area around the time of the incident to come forward.
While Gsoc was investigating, as it is legally obliged to, the Garda force was carrying out the main investigation into the death of the three men. An appeal for witnesses has been launched by Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin.
Gardaí said they were especially keen to speak to anyone who saw a dark blue BMW 3 Series vehicle, registration 06-D-47768, in the areas of Belgard, Citywest or the N7 any time after approximately 11.15pm.
“Postmortems for the three men will take place later this afternoon. An Garda Síochána are not in a position to confirm the identities of the deceased at this time,” a Garda statement said.
The AA said the N7 inbound was closed between J4 Rathcoole and J3 Citywest following the collision. The two vehicles have been removed from the scene by gardaí.
Mayor of South Dublin County Council Peter Kavanagh said the fatal incident was a “huge tragedy” for people to wake up to, with a lot of families affected.
“It is a terrible tragedy whenever we lose lives on our roads. My thoughts are with the injured truck driver and his family and I hope he makes a full recovery,” he said.
Cllr Kavanagh said there had been no road deaths in the council area so far this year, but three fatalities in a single night has made 2021 one of the deadliest, he said.
Local councillor Mick Duff said he was shocked to hear the news on Thursday morning.
“I am very, very saddened for the families involved and I am wishing a very speedy recovery for the truck driver,” he added.
Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA), said his thoughts are with the injured driver.
“There are huge challenges with truck driving. It is a difficult job… This doesn’t help at all. It is terrible,” he said.
Maneuvering a heavy goods vehicle is difficult, he said, and there is little a driver could do to quickly move out of the way.