A man who showed a “total disregard for the law” when he filmed himself driving at speeds of up to 90mph while inhaling from balloons hours before a crash in which three people died has been jailed.
The offences, relating to Loughlin driving at around 10pm on March 3, were not connected to a collision involving the same vehicle which happened near the St Mellons area of Cardiff at 2.03am on March 4.
Loughlin was a rear seat passenger at the time of that crash, which resulted in the deaths of driver Rafel Jeanne, 24, and passengers Darcy Ross and Eve Smith, both 21, and sustained serious injuries.
Video footage played to Cardiff Crown Court on Friday afternoon showed Loughlin inhaling from balloons as he drove the Tiguan at speeds of up to 90mph along the M4, with the car crossing the lines of the road.
The court heard Loughlin, who has three young children, at times did not have either hand on the wheel as he inhaled nitrous oxide from the balloon.
Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke, the Recorder of Cardiff, jailed Loughlin for 17 months and told him it was “luck, not judgment” that he had not injured or killed anyone that night.
She said: “This was a deliberate decision to drive dangerously. You ignored the rules of the road and disregarded the risks to others.
“It was prolonged driving and prolonged use of the mobile phone to record what you were doing. You had passengers in the vehicle.
“You were filming, it would appear, to be able to share that video with others.”
She continued: “That night, you showed a total disregard for the law. You know full well the consequences that can arise from a road traffic collision.
“It was luck, not judgment, that meant you didn’t seriously injure or kill anyone else or yourself.”
The judge said Loughlin had a “truly appalling” record of criminal convictions, including driving offences, and was the subject of a driving ban at the time of the incident.
She disqualified him from driving for two years and eight months. He will have to pass an extended driving test before regaining his licence.
Jason Howells, prosecuting, described how South Wales Police officers investigating the fatal crash removed items from the scene including Loughlin’s iPhone and found four videos showing him driving dangerously.
In one video, lasting 23 seconds, Loughlin filmed himself driving the car as he inhaled from a balloon. The car dashboard showed the speed as 80mph, with the fuel light and airbag light illuminated.
Another clip showed the vehicle driving along the M4 at 90mph, with a winter tyre warning light on.
CCTV footage showed Loughlin, who was disqualified from driving at the time, getting in and out of the vehicle’s driver seat at a petrol station at 10.41pm on March 3.
Loughlin was arrested at Cardiff Bay police station on May 17. During a police interview, he said he could not recall driving and claimed he had not inhaled nitrous oxide before.
He later appeared before Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, where he admitted offences of dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.
The court heard Loughlin was the subject of a community order, relating to an incident involving the sister of Mr Jeanne – his former partner and mother to his three children – at the time.
Andrew Taylor, representing Loughlin, said the fatal collision was a reminder that “partying and driving motor vehicles is a cocktail that should never be mixed”.
“The driver at the time the fatal crash happened was not this defendant and he cannot be blamed for the accident that cost those lives,” Mr Taylor said.
He said the car was not discovered for almost 48 hours following that collision, with Loughlin and Sophie Russon, 20, another passenger, left waiting for help for that time having sustained serious injuries.
Loughlin suffered facial fractures, numerous leg fractures, a rupture to his aorta and a fractured elbow in the crash.
Mr Taylor added: “When he was taken to the University Hospital of Wales, he was advised that the only thing probably that saved his life was the cold temperatures at the time.
“The mental and physical scars will be with Shane Loughlin forever and a day. He will never get over what happened.”
He said his client’s heart function is between 24 and 50% and it is likely he will require heart surgery in the future.
Previously, Joel Lia, 28, of Rumney, Cardiff was fined for driving the Volkswagen Tiguan without a licence or insurance an hour before the crash. He had left the vehicle shortly before the fatal collision.
An initial inquest hearing into the deaths of Mr Jeanne, Ms Ross and Ms Smith heard they were declared dead at the scene of the crash.
The inquest was adjourned to await the findings of further histology and toxicology tests.