Man dropped off ahead of Cardiff crash 'was in car search party for 13 hours'

A man who was dropped off by a group of friends shortly before their car left the road, killing three and injuring two, joined the search for the missing vehicle for 13 hours, according to reports.

Joel Lia, 27, was named last week as the sixth passenger in the white Volkswagen Tiguan that crashed near the St Mellons area of Cardiff on March 4.

However, he had left the car when his friends took him to his home in Pentwyn, around two miles from where the tragedy happened.

Eve Smith and Darcy Ross, both 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, died in the wreck beside the A48(M), which took place just after 2am.

Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, are still being treated at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

Their vehicle was not found until 46 hours after the crash took place, with some family members criticising the police as they had to take the lead in finding their missing relatives.

The Daily Mirror quoted a Facebook post from one of Joel’s friends, listing him among a group of people who went through ’12/13 hours of searching’ for the vehicle before they ‘got the call we was all so dreading’.

They added: ‘Heartbroken we could not find them sooner, we all really did try for hours and hours.’

Police spoke to Joel about the final hours before the crash last week, as an insider said he was ‘fully cooperating’.

The source said: ‘He has been cooperating fully with the officers in the case and is understandably very upset by the events of that night.’

Other friends of the group have also shed light on the events around their night out at the Muffler social club in Newport, where the six spent time ahead of the incident.

The MailOnline reported that Rafel’s ex-girlfriend had posted a video of her final hug with him two days before the crash, while another friend described texting his phone on Saturday night unaware he was dead – and later found out Joel was doing the same.

Izzy Sinnott said: ‘I was texting him on Saturday night and when he didn’t reply I thought that’s a bit strange.

‘Then I heard from Joel and he said the same thing – that he couldn’t get hold of Rafel.’

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hoborough of Gwent Police said: ‘This is an extremely sad situation, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of each of the young people involved.

‘We will continue to support the investigation and would ask members of the public to refrain from speculation during this period.’

Gwent Police and South Wales Police will be investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct over their handling of the case.

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