Four children killed in stolen car crash

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The Independent Online

Four children killed in a horrific two-car smash were travelling in a stolen car, police said today.

The youngsters - aged between four and 16 - died in the crash near Tilbury, in Essex, last night.

Essex Police said today that the Ford Fiesta in which they were travelling was stolen from the Westcliff area of Essex on Monday.

They believe the mother of the two youngest children, Davina Smith, was driving the car.

She is being treated at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, after suffering serious back injuries in the smash.

Her children were Karis Goyette, eight, of Darwin Road, Tilbury, and four-year-old Kalli Goyette, also of Darwin Road.

The two teenagers killed were Lee Gray, 16, of Dickens Avenue, Tilbury, and Kezia Adger, 16, of Leicester Road, Tilbury.

Chief Inspector Tom Diment, who is heading the inquiry into the accident, said police believed Ms Smith was driving but had not ruled out that one of the teenagers had been behind the wheel.

"At this stage I will not dismiss any possibility," he said. "I will not take anything for granted."

He said scientists would also be checking blood samples to see whether the driver of the Fiesta might have been under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

He added: "One car involved in the accident was stolen - the Fiesta.

"It was stolen on Monday from Westcliff. I'm not aware of the exact circumstances in which it was stolen.

"I am aware that it was stolen. We will be making extensive inquiries into that."

He said officers would be checking CCTV footage to try to establish where the car had been before the accident.

Police were also standing by to question 30-year-old Ms Smith when she is fit to speak to them.

Mr Diment said the driver of the other car, the Vauxhall Corsa, had been breathtested at the scene and was not over the drink-drive limit.

"I will undertake a full investigation of all the facts," he said.

"Whether that leads to a coroner's inquiry or a coroner's and a criminal court, I don't know. It is far too early to say."

He said experts would check the cars involved for mechanical defects and would also look into the road conditions and road layout in an attempt to establish how the accident happened.

He said he was not 100% sure whether the occupants of the Fiesta were wearing seatbelts.

Inquiries to check whether the children were belted in and whether the youngest child was sitting on or in any kind of car seat would form part of the investigation.

Paramedics said some of the victims were thrown out of the vehicle. Passers-by and local residents tried to help treat them on the grass verge before ambulance crews arrived.

Mr Diment added: "I deal with a lot of road deaths and I have investigated child deaths before and it is always a tragedy.

"Here we have an accident in which four children have died and it is a terrible tragedy.

"I want to say to the immediate family members that Essex Police offers them their deepest sympathy and condolences."

He appealed for anyone who either saw or stopped at the scene of the accident to come forward.

He also urged anyone who saw either of the cars prior to the accident to contact police.

"I know people did stop and try to help and we need to speak to them," he added.

"Also anyone with information about either of the cars prior to the accident should contact us."

He said the father of the two younger children had been told of their deaths.

And he said Ms Smith had also been told that her children and the two teenagers travelling with them had died.

The news was broken to her by police officers at hospital today. He said around 30 officers were involved in the investigation.

The four children were taken to Basildon Hospital but died despite the efforts of medical staff.

Six ambulances - five from Essex and one from Kent - attended the scene at about 6.20pm.

A rapid response car from Essex Ambulance Service was on its way to another emergency call when it came across the crash shortly after it happened.

A 56-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman, who were passengers in the Vauxhall Corsa, escaped without serious injury.

The accident happened as the Fiesta travelled north on St Chad's Road from Tilbury to Chadwell St Mary.

Kezia's uncle, Tony Brooks, paid tribute to the teenager, saying: "We will miss her terribly.

"She was only just 16. We will miss her beautiful smile."

Mr Brooks said Kezia had celebrated her 16th birthday a few days before she died.

Two friends of Lee and Kezia also laid flowers and paid tribute to the teenagers.

Melissa Drake and Yasmin Mansfield - both 16 and from Tilbury - said they had grown up with Kezia and Lee.

The teenagers said Kezia was still a pupil at The Gateway Community College - which is less than a mile from the scene of the crash.

Lee, like them, had left the school in the summer.

Melissa said that Kezia had hoped to be a model. She said: "She was in year 11 doing her GCSEs. She was a very ambitious girl.

"She was a very pretty girl. She was going to go in for modelling. She was very beautiful."

Melissa added: "We last seen her Monday night when we were walking through Tilbury. She was in a good mood."

Yasmin added: "I think she had contacted some modelling agencies. She was a fashion icon."

Melissa said Lee was well known in Tilbury and added: "He was lovely. He was the life of Tilbury. Three words for Lee: 'Life of Tilbury'."

Yasmin added: "He was into motorbikes. He was a motorbike boy. He was not a football boy."

Other tearful family members and local people laid floral tributes at the scene of the crash.

Marina, the mother of 16-year-old Lee, wept openly.

Her card read: "Lee darling, god bless sweetheart. Love you so much. Will see you again."

Another read: "To L Gray, Kezia, and the 2 babies. R.I.P. Never forgotten. Loads of love. Chelsea G."

Others read: "Thinking of you Kali Keris. Love Robert" and "God Bless from Big Sister Kaya." Another said: "Danny. Lots of Love."

Residents on a nearby travellers' site described how they ran to the scene of the crash.

One man living on the site, who did not want to give his name, said today: "People did go to help. But I don't want to talk about it, I'm sorry. It's all been too much."

Another traveller, who did not want to be named, added: "We are absolutely devastated. We did our best for those children."

As the shrine grew, news came in of other crashes around the UK.

Three people died and two others were injured after their car left the road and hit a tree in Leicestershire.

A black Peugeot 307 came off the A606 Oakham Road near Somerby last night but police said they did not believe any other vehicle was involved.

In Cambridgeshire, the bodies of two men and a woman were recovered after their car plunged into a water-filled ditch.

And in Carlisle, two people were killed in a crash on London Road after their white Vauxhall Corsa van collided with a Vauxhall Astra.