Three individuals perished in a car crash, and a man who was a passenger at the time admitted to driving the vehicle recklessly and without a licence before the crash.
In his Tuesday appearance before Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, Shane Andrew Loughlin, 32, of Rumney, guilty to two charges related to driving on the M4 in south Wales at around 10 p.m. on March 3.
The offences are unrelated to the crash that killed driver Rafel Jeanne, 24, and passengers Darcy Ross and Eve Smith, both 21, at 2:03 a.m. on March 4 near Cardiff’s St Mellons neighbourhood.
After South Wales Police looked into the deadly collision, Loughlin was charged with operating the Volkswagen Tiguan dangerously on the M4 as well as operating the car while ineligible.
During the hearing at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, he entered a plea of guilty to both counts. On September 5, he will appear before Cardiff Crown Court for sentencing.
In her role as the prosecutor, Sophie Pennifold informed the magistrates that Loughlin had been suspended from driving for a year beginning in July 2022, but that he or she had been observed entering and exiting a Tiguan at Castleton Esso at about 10.40 p.m. on March 3.
According to Ms Pennifold, CCTV evidence showed “the defendant exiting, filling up the car with petrol, paying at the kiosk and driving off at 10.46 p.m.”
She explained how Loughlin recorded himself operating a vehicle while inhaling air from a balloon.
“He appears to be filming, driving the vehicle with a balloon pressed to his mouth,” she told the court.
“This leaves no hands, or one hand with a mobile phone in it, on the wheel.”
The fuel and seatbelt lights on the car were on, and the speedometer read up to 80-90 mph. The videos had loud music playing in the background.
According to Ms. Pennifold, the car crossed the lanes of the highway, which was also used by other vehicles.
She added: “The defendant was interviewed and stated he couldn’t recall. He viewed the CCTV and footage and accepted he was driving.”
The court was informed that Loughlin is now under a community order and has previously been convicted of 21 offences, including driving while intoxicated.
Loughlin’s attorney, Neil Evans, requested that his client be released on unconditional bond. Loughlin arrived at the hearing wearing a grey jacket, shorts, and crutches.
Elaine Farthing, the chair of the bench, declined to exercise her jurisdiction over the matter and forwarded it to Cardiff Crown Court on September 5 for a sentencing hearing.
She told the defendant: “Mr Loughlin, you have pleaded guilty to two offences of driving while disqualified and dangerous driving.
“This matter is so serious it cannot be dealt with in this court. It can only be dealt with in the Crown Court.
“The next hearing will be on September 5. We have granted unconditional bail.”
The Volkswagen Tiguan’s driver, Mr. Jeanne, Ms. Ross, and Ms. Smith perished when the vehicle swerved off a slip lane and into a small copse of trees on the A48(M) near a roundabout.
Loughlin and another passenger Sophie Russon, 20, both sustained injuries in the collision but lived.
On Monday, March 6, the five people were found, almost 46 hours after the incident.
Prior to going to the Trecco Bay Caravan Park in Porthcawl on March 3, they had spent the evening out at The Muffler social club in Maesglas, Newport.
They departed the area and were last observed at two in the morning in Cardiff’s Pentwyn neighbourhood.
Earlier this month, court records pertaining to the prosecution of Joel Lia, 28, of Rumney, Cardiff, who was operating the Volkswagen Tiguan an hour prior to the collision, were made available to the PA news agency.
According to the papers, Lia, who is accused of driving in Porthcawl without a licence or insurance, informed police that the party had been drinking and used nitrous oxide, often known as laughing gas, before the accident.
At Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, Lia’s case is being handled in accordance with the single justice system, which allows magistrates to handle non-custodial criminal cases in private rather than in public.
He entered a guilty plea to both charges, and his sentencing is scheduled for August 24.
The three fatalities were pronounced dead at the site of the collision, it was revealed during a preliminary inquest hearing.
The inquiry was postponed while the results of additional histology and toxicological testing were awaited.