THREE teenage pals died in a horror car smash in South Yorkshire after a 16-year-old unlicensed driver lost control and ploughed into a tree.
The three pals - aged just 16, 15 and 14 - suffered multiple injuries in the high-speed crash which tore the car in two.
The accident happened at 4.30am yesterday on the A630 just outside Conisbrough, close to a landmark water tower.
Paramedics battled to save the youngsters as firefighters cut them all free from the mangled wreckage.
Two of the teenagers died at the scene and a third in Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
They were named by friends as Michael Gallagher, 16, from Warmsworth, Tom Hughes, 15, from Bessacarr, and Antonia Brown, 14, from Balby.
The tragedy comes a month after a crash in Mexborough four miles away claimed the lives of three teenagers.
Chf Supt Keith Lumley, head of specialist operations, said they believed the Conisbrough crash happened after the driver took a family member’s car without their knowledge.
The car was travelling back towards Warmsworth when it ran out of control after a sweeping bend.
Skid marks appeared to show it had drifted sideways before hitting a mature sycamore tree, he added.
He said: “None of the occupants were of a legal age to drive. There had been no reports of a missing car and when we broke the news to the families it was the first they knew of anything untoward.
“At the time of the crash, the road was damp and it was just above zero. The accident investigation branch has examined the scene and will report on the cause, including the inexperience of the driver and a host of other factors.
“It’s an absolute tragedy. It brings to six the fatalities involving teenagers in just over a month.”
The report would also reveal whether the teenagers were wearing seat belts, he added.
The crash happened in a 60mph zone on the road, which was closed until 11am yesterday.
Chf Supt Lumley said officers would examine CCTV in Conisbrough to try to get an idea of how the car was being driven.
And he appealed to witnesses who may have seen the silver Honda Civic hatchback at any time on Saturday night and Sunday morning
He added: “The message at this stage is that we will be looking between the two collisions trying to identify common factors which help us try to reduce this kind of collision.”
One pal who was laying flowers at the scene of the crash with her parents, said Antonia had been due to celebrate her 15th birthday next week and was in the car with the cousin and brother of her best friend, Catherine Gallagher.
She said: “Antonia was always smiling and she will never be forgotten. She was a really popular girl, both at school and outside of it as well.
“I heard about the accident on Facebook and I just couldn’t believe it when I heard what had happened. I just burst into tears as soon as I heard about it. We can’t believe she’s gone.”
Devon said Antonia and Michael attended McAuley Catholic High School in Cantley.
A group of clearly distressed friends accompanied by a police family liaison officer laid flowers, teddies and a balloon at the scene yesterday afternoon.
One said: “We will miss you all, the Howard family.”
Another: “Sorry you have gone from us too soon, you will always have a place in my heart and will be forever missed in our lives, Tamzin.”
Jon Torn, of South Yorkshire Fire Service, said all three teenagers had to be extracted using hydraulic cutting gear from the technical rescue unit from Dearne station. Two fire engines from Edlington also attended.
He added: “It was very distressing for crews. Our condolences go out to friends and families. I can’t even imagine what their poor parents are going through.”
Police would like to hear from anyone who may have seen the vehicle in the Conisbrough or Doncaster areas prior to the crash.
Any owners of private businesses with CCTV on the A630 who may have picked up footage of the car coming from Conisbrough is also asked to ring the accident witness helpline on 0114 220 2970.