Dunbar crash: Town mourns loss of three teenagers

Jenna Barbour. Picture: Comp
Jenna Barbour. Picture: Comp
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DUNBAR was today struggling to come to terms with a horrific road crash which claimed the lives of three teenagers.

Robbie Gemmell, 16, is understood to be in a stable condition in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after surviving the accident which killed his friends.

David Armstrong. Picture: comp

David Armstrong. Picture: comp

Jenna Barbour, 18, who left Dunbar Grammar School in the summer, and S5 pupils Josh Stewart, 16, and David Armstrong, 15, died after the car they were travelling in hit a wall on Monday night.

Following a day of unbearable grief, residents came together in an impromptu display of solidarity last night.

More than 100 people attended a silent vigil in memory of the friends at the Hallhill Healthy Living Centre and the town’s rugby club where the three boys played cancelled its training as a mark of respect.

Tributes were today paid to the victims, with Josh and David described as talented rugby players who were “always fun to be around”. Jenna was said to be a caring young woman who had made plans to go to Australia and New Zealand in January.

Robbie Gemmell. Picture: Comp

Robbie Gemmell. Picture: Comp

Chaplains will be on hand at Belhaven Parish Church throughout the day today as the teenager’s friends try to come to terms with the tragedy.

Flowers, without cards, have been left at the side of the road leading to Tyninghame Beach where the crash took place. Mourners left dozens of bouquets and tributes, including a Dunbar RFC top in memory of the boys.

The accident happened at about 8.30pm on Lime Tree Walk near the village of Tyninghame, when the Peugeot 206 in which the youngsters were travelling came off the road and struck a wall. It is not yet known who was driving the car.

Sixteen-year-old Robbie is understood to have raised the alarm on his mobile phone despite suffering injuries to his neck.

Josh Stewart. Picture: Comp

Josh Stewart. Picture: Comp

Dunbar has been rocked by the tragedy, according to Councillor Paul McLellan, who said: “Pretty much everyone will know one of the kids or know their families – it’s devastating. Dunbar is very close-knit and it will take a long time to recover from this. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and their friends.”

He added: “I have to say the response from the police, the school and the council has been fantastic.

“It’s time for the town to pull together – and they will. I’m sure in time, everyone will come together to organiser a fitting memorial.”

As the news broke yesterday, pupils at the school were told they could go home if they wanted and were offered counselling to help them come to terms with it. Many posted tributes to the teens on social media.

David’s cousin, Connie Craig, wrote on Twitter: “Rip to the beautiful, beautiful David. So so proud to call you my little cousin. Done everyone so proud. You’re not in any pain :( no words.”

Others spoke of their hopes for Robbie’s swift recovery.

Nathan McMaster, 19, told how he’d been asked to join them in the car.

“They called me on the night of the crash and told me they were going for a drive and that’s the last time I heard from them.

“The next morning I found out they were dead.”

David Wilson, president of Dunbar Rugby Football Club, paid tribute to all three boys, adding Josh was an especially talented player. “He was a standout for the club with a promising future. This has come as a real shock.”

Jenna had made plans to go travelling in the New Year, according to David Cree, her boss at the nearby East Links Park, who said: We’re all devastated. She did not have a bad bone in her body.

“She was planning on going away to Australia and New Zealand in January. It was all arranged.”

The three boys had attended Countess Youth Club in Dunbar.

The club’s community development officer Jo McNamara, 60, said: ”Everyone is utterly devastated. They will be missed because they were people that were always fun to be around.”

Stephen Bunyan, chairman of Dunbar Community Council, said: “Everyone will know someone involved, I myself know one of the families.

“They had been travelling on this remote country off-shoot. It really leads nowhere in particular – only down to the beach at Tyninghame.

“There’s only a few houses nearby, and at that sort of time I can’t imagine there would have been a lot of traffic. Everyone I have spoken to is horrified.”

East Lothian Council’s education committee meeting was also postponed yesterday as a mark of respect.

Councillor Shamin Akhtar, East Lothian’s education and children’s wellbeing spokesman, said: “Teachers across the school are supporting young people and counselling services are also on hand.

“The grief will be felt for a long time and at the moment the school is focusing on supporting its young people and the families of those who died, and on sending our best wishes and thoughts for the recovery of the young person who survived the accident.”

Police Scotland said it was investigating the crash and appealed for any witnesses to come forward.

A spokesman said: “Tragically, this incident has resulted in three young people losing their lives and we are currently trying to establish exactly what has happened.

“Any motorists who were on the road at the time and have information that can help with our investigation is asked to contact police immediately.”

In 2009, Gullane teenager Matthew De Busk was killed when his Volkswagen Polo hit a tree at Aberlady Mains, having recently travelled to London for a professional modelling shoot.

A message from Dunbar Grammar School read: “Staff and students at Dunbar Grammar School would like to pass their sincere condolences to the families and friends of David Armstrong, Jenna Barbour and Josh Stewart. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

“We would also like to wish Robbie Gemmell a speedy recovery. The school would like to extend the offer of support to students, families and friends affected by this 
tragedy.”

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact police on 101.

The dangerous age

Road crashes are the biggest single killer of young people in the world.

According to Road Safety Scotland, young drivers are much more likely to be involved in an accident than older drivers.

Drivers aged 17 to 25 years old account for ten per cent of licence holders, but more than 20 per cent of accidents, meaning younger drivers generally pay more for their car insurance.

The types of accidents in which young drivers are involved are different from older, more experienced drivers.

Single vehicle accidents are common among young drivers, often as a result of the driver losing control of the vehicle.

Every day in Scotland, an average of 16 drivers aged between 17 to 25 is involved in a road accident.

These accidents result in the death of one young person every week, plus a further 17 left seriously injured – many of whom will be permanently disabled or scarred.

UK-wide research carried out by road safety charity Brake shows that an 18-year-old driver is more than three times as likely to be involved in a crash as a 48-year-old, one in five new drivers has a crash within six months of passing their test, young male drivers have much higher crash rates than young female drivers and young male drivers aged 17 to 20 are seven times more at risk than all other male drivers – but between the hours of 2am and 5am their risk is 17 times higher.

Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “Young and inexperienced drivers are a known, statistically proven area of concern.

“Young men in particular are 17 times more at risk of having a serious accident at a young age.

“This is a tragic waste of young lives and it’s a problem that the government is deeply concerned about and is seeking to address.”

Current legislation means that people passing their first driving test will be “on probation” for two years. A total of six or more penalty points during that time will mean they have to go back to learner status.

Investigations into the Dunbar crash are still ongoing and police said more inquiries would be carried out to determine the cause of the tragedy.

Rugby club mourns its loss

DUNBAR Rugby Club is today mourning the loss of two of its players in what chairman Billy Low called a “sad day for the club”.

David Armstrong only signed recently, joining Josh Stewart and the injured Robbie Gemmell amongst the club’s ranks.

Announcing that last night’s training session and club lottery draw had been cancelled, a spokesman said: “Today, Dunbar is in mourning for the loss of three young lives and our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who have lost loved ones.

“No words can ever truly express the sadness and grief that people feel in a moment as this.

“All we can do is offer the support and love to those involved in their moment of need. We continue to hope and pray for the recovery of those injured in the accident.

“As a mark of respect, all training has been cancelled tonight.”

Other teams, including the basketball team East Lothian Peregrines and Tranent and District Community Sports Clubs, also offered their condolences.