Investigators from both the Garda Ombudsman and An Garda Síochána are waiting to interview a group of five youths — including three teenagers, one as young as 13 — in relation to a horrific car crash which left an innocent woman dead.
Diana Harton, aged 43, of Claregate Court, Kildare town, was killed when a vehicle carrying the group smashed into her car as she entered the M7 motorway at the Kildare slipway (junction 13) shortly before 9pm on Thursday.
The youths were being pursued by gardaí after staff at the toll plaza near Portlaoise (just before junction 18) alerted them to a car heading northbound that had sped through without paying.
Gardaí had been searching for a car, matching the description of this vehicle, in relation in two earlier criminal incidents, thought to be thefts, in Tipperary.
Up to four Garda cars, including patrol and unmarked vehicles, drove to the motorway and attempted to bring the getaway car, a Volkswagen Polo, to a controlled stop. It is thought one Garda car positioned itself in front of the Polo, with three cars behind and to the right of it.
Sources explained to the Irish Examiner that it is not clear what happened in the lead-up to the crash just north of junction 13.
Investigators are examining initial suggestions that the driver of the Polo attempted to get past the Garda car in front of him by swinging onto the end of the slip road and the hard shoulder.
The Polo rammed into the rear of Ms Harton’s Citroen at a high speed, catapulting her car into the air, forcing her to lose control, possibly resulting in the car flipping over.
Ms Harton suffered severe injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy will be conducted by Dr Marie Cassidy, the State pathologist.
The five occupants of the Polo were taken to hospitals in Naas and Tallaght. One was aged 13, two were aged 17, one aged 18, and a fifth, aged 23. Two of them are from the Clonsilla area of north-west Dublin and two are from Meath. It is not clear where the fifth occupant is from.
Two gardaí in the front vehicle were also taken to hospital, but were discharged.
The scene was preserved and, in accordance with protocols, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was contacted.
Garda forensic collision experts and scenes-of-crime officers conducted a detailed examination of the scene. Their examination continued up until 4am on Friday.
Analysis of their tests will help establish what happened. They liaise closely with GSOC investigators.
GSOC is investigating the events leading up to the crash, while gardaí carry out a parallel investigation into the suspected criminal activity in Tipperary and Ms Harton’s death.
Both want to speak to the five youths, four of whom were still believed to be in hospital last night. GSOC investigators also want to interview the Garda occupants of the four vehicles.
GSOC will check for any CCTV cameras on that section of motorway, as well as cameras at the plaza. GSOC has appealed for any witnesses to contact them at 1890 600 800.
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