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Tributes to college student pals killed in horrific road smash


Peter Hughes, Conall Havern, Gavin Sloan (Photo: Cobbles Bar Kitchen Club)

Peter Hughes, Conall Havern, Gavin Sloan (Photo: Cobbles Bar Kitchen Club)

Peter Hughes, Conall Havern, Gavin Sloan (Photo: Cobbles Bar Kitchen Club)

They were all good friends, academically gifted and had everything to live for.

The horrific car crash on the A1 dual carriageway robbed three university students of bright futures and plunged their families and friends in south Armagh and Co Down into shock and grief.

Conall Havern and Gavin Sloan, both aged 20, and 19-year-old Peter Hughes would have all been entering their second year at Queen's University in a few weeks' time and had planned to share a flat together.

The close friends were travelling together in a red Vauxhall Corsa when the accident happened at around 5.40pm on Sunday.

Their car was in collision with a black Volkswagen Tiguan on the northbound carriageway between Banbridge and Dromore.

All three young men died from their injuries, while the female driver of the Volkswagen was taken to hospital. Her life is not believed to be in danger.

Driving conditions were said to be treacherous, with heavy rain around the time of the accident, which happened close to the Halfway Road junction.

The dual carriageway was closed afterward in both directions until the early hours of yesterday morning.

The university friends were all destined for big things in the future, their former school principals said in tribute yesterday.

They were all academically gifted and were sure to have made a mark in their chosen careers of chemical engineering and law.

Despite attending three different schools in the south Armagh area, it is believed the young men made friends at Queen's.

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The youngest of those to die was Peter Hughes, from Dromintee, near Bessbrook, who was a former head boy at St Paul's High School in the village.

Principal and GAA commentator Jarlath Burns tweeted a photograph of Peter in tribute yesterday and wrote: "Our Head Boy of 2013/4 Peter Hughes RIP. You will live long in our hearts. A perfect role model and a total charmer."

He described the student to the Belfast Telegraph as "someone who just had it all".

"Peter had one of the sharpest minds I have ever encountered," Mr Burns said. "He was just one of those lads that you knew that whatever he set his mind to, he was going to be a success.

"He was loved and very highly regarded by all in the school. The girl students and female teachers just loved him - he was a charmer and a utter gentleman.

"He was a very decent, caring and respectful young man and his loss to the school is absolutely devastating."

In his final year, Peter had been selected to take part in a council-led exchange visit with Kirvosk in Russia.

Mr Burns added that the top A-level grade student, who was studying chemical engineering at Queen's, was also a "very talented" Gaelic footballer who played for his school and university.

Conall Havern, from Crieve in Newry, was his mother's only son. His family had already suffered a devastating tragedy before his death when, in Christmas 2013, Conall's father died suddenly from a heart attack.

He was described by Dermot McGovern, principal of Abbey Grammar School in the town, as a "down to earth, modest, friendly but very determined young man".

"Conall was a very bright student and aimed to study engineering at Queen's," he said. "He was well-liked and respected by his peer group, which was shown by the support that he got from his friends and teachers when his father died suddenly at Christmas in his final A-level year.

"Despite that, he went on to get two As and two Bs and another AS Level."

Law student Gavin Sloan, from Attical, Kilkeel, was described by Kevin Martin, principal of St Louis High School, as: "A young man with integrity. He was modest and unassuming, had a great sense of humour and was held in great regard by all in St Louis.

"Gavin was an exemplary student - conscientious and hard-working."

He added that Gavin had got exceptional A-level results and that his school was "deeply saddened" at the tragic loss of life of all three young men.

SDLP MLA for South Down Karen McKevitt added: "This is every parent's worst nightmare and my sympathies go out to all their family and friends."

Ulster Unionist Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson raised her road safety concerns about the A1 with Transport Minister Danny Kennedy yesterday morning.

She said: "We discussed the tragic death of three young men, which occurred just a couple of miles from Banbridge on the A1 dual carriageway, and together expressed our deepest sympathies to their family circle and friends at what is an extremely difficult time for them."

Police have appealed for witnesses who were travelling on the dual carriageway at that time to contact Banbridge police on 101.

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