The green Nissan Serena they were travelling in was in collision with a silver Opel Astra carrying four members of the Abbeyfeale GAA club, who were returning form a county championship football game in Kilmallock. The GAA group escaped injury.
Those who died were Richard Feury, 37, who was married with a young son, of Daarwood Crescent, Newcastle West; Tommy Murphy, 32, also of Daarwood Crescent, Newcastle West, and Tommy Holmes, 32, of Bishop Court, Newcastle West.
Tommy Murphy’s brother Michael and another friend, Martin Kendrick, were treated for injuries at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital and allowed home yesterday.
The hackney driver, Lar Cremin, who comes from Barnagh, Newcastle West, also escaped serious injury.
One of the passengers in the Opel was Padraig Browne, the former senior Limerick football captain.
The crash happened at Garryduff about three miles on the Abbeyfeale side of Newcastle West at around 9.10pm. The hackney was travelling towards Newcastle West with the Opel going in the direction of Abbeyfeale
A source within the emergency services who went to the scene said initial indications were that something catastrophic happened the Opel which resulted in it hitting a ditch and careering into the hackney. The car ended up on its roof.
A blow-out is one theory being considered by garda investigators.
The three who died were seated one behind the other in three rows of seats on the passenger-door side of the people carrier hackney. The N21 was closed for 12 hours after the crash.
Superintendent Dan Flavin, Newcastle West said: “The road was wet. It had been raining previously but not at the time. We have our collisions investigators carrying out a forensic examination of the area and this will form an overall file on the incident.
“We are appealing for witnesses. Anybody who may have seen these vehicles to contact us at Newcastle West garda station where we have set up an incident room on 069 20650.”