Family of 20-year-old woman killed in garda pursuit crash demand answers
The family of a 20-year-old childcare worker who was killed when the car she was travelling in crashed during a garda pursuit has said they are in a state of "absolute shock".
Heartfelt tributes flooded online to 20-year-old Jillian Thornton, from Halpin's Terrace, Drogheda, who died after a two-car collision on the main Dublin to Derry road on Friday night.
Jillian was fatally injured when the car she was in collided with another vehicle shortly after 10.30pm.
Jillian, who was a back seat passenger in one of the cars, was pronounced dead at the scene and her body was later taken to the mortuary in Navan.
The crash at Waterside Great, Duleek, involved a Mitsubishi Colt car, which the deceased was in, and a Volkswagen Passat that a couple from Navan was travelling in.
It is believed that the impact was nearly head-on and resulted in the Colt being seriously damaged, with the young victim thrown from the vehicle.
A male driver in his early 40s and a female front-seat passenger (20) were removed to Blanchardstown Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The male driver of the second car, who is in his late 30s, and a female passenger in her mid-30s were taken to Drogheda Hospital with slight injuries.
Gardai said that at the time they were in pursuit of the car the deceased was a passenger in because they wanted to speak to the driver.
It is understood that gardai in Drogheda were contacted about a car being driven without its lights on and as a result they were endeavouring to locate the car and speak to the driver.
Gardai also confirmed that the driver of the car was arrested on Saturday morning on suspicion of dangerous driving and that he was taken into custody at Ashbourne garda station.
Tributes to the deceased were posted to her Facebook page.
Rosie Smith said Jillian had been her best friend. "Woke up to the worst news ever," she wrote.
"You truly were one in a million. You were such a kind-hearted girl with a bubbly smile all the time."
Caitlin Kelly added: "Cant believe I'm writing this. To be woke up to this news was horrible and heartbreaking. Sleep tight angel."
A female friend of the deceased is understood to have been a front seat passenger in the Colt. Neither she nor the couple in the Passat car were seriously injured.
The car had sped out through Duleek, where one Facebook poster revealed it narrowly avoided him and his family who were returning home in their car.
An eyewitness revealed: "I was in my car at Mell when the car that was being chased came down past me on the wrong side of the road, and turned over the Bridge of Peace. There was at least two squad cars after it, what seemed to be an umarked car and a couple of Paddy Wagons."
The road was sealed off to allow for Garda Forensic Collision Investigators to examine it and the crash scene.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has confirmed that it is also carrying out an investigation.
In a statement, GSOC said: "The fatal road traffic incident which occurred in the N2 last night was referred to GSOC because the car which crashed was under pursuit by gardaí prior to the incident occurring.
"GSOC's investigation will focus primarily on matters relating to the conduct of the Garda pursuit," it added.
The stretch of road N2 Slane to Dublin Road from Rathfeigh Cross to Balrath Cross was closed pending the completion of an examination by Garda Forensic Collision Investigators and local diversions were put in place.
Gardai in Meath have appealed for information from the public. A spokesman said they wanted to hear from anyone who saw the accident or who saw a car being driven without lights in the Drogheda area or on the N2 before the crash to contact them at either Ashbourne or Navan garda stations.
Paying tribute to her sister Jillian, Elaine Thornton described her as "the most bubbly, happy person you could meet".
Elaine called for a full investigation into the tragedy and told the Irish Independent that the family wants to see the people responsible for what happened to be held to account.
Jillian, a childcare worker and skilled darts player, from Halpin's Terrace, Drogheda, Co Louth, would have turned 21 on July 14.
"She was the most bubbly, happy person you could meet," said Elaine.
"Everyone loved her, she was a great sister, a great auntie and a great friend," she told Independent.ie.
"We are all in absolute shock. She would have been 21 in July, but now she is never going to see her 21st."
"We want to see the person or persons to be held accountable for what they have done," Ms Thornton said.
Speaking about her sister, she added: "She had just finished her childcare course. She absolutely loved children. She loved playing darts and she was a great darts player."
She added that Jillian played with the Louth darts team.
Elaine Keogh/Gerry Hand