The man was dropped off in Cardiff before the accident and was in a car search party.

The scene of the accident and Joel Lia.

Joel Lia was the sixth passenger in the car that crashed but was dropped off shortly before (Image: PA/Facebook)

A man who was dropped off by a group of friends just before their car left the road, killing three and injuring two, reportedly spent 13 hours searching for the missing vehicle.

Joel Lia, 27, was named last week as the sixth passenger in the white Volkswagen Tiguan that arrived on April 4.

However, he had left the car when his friends took him to his home in Pentwyn, about two miles from where the tragedy happened.

Eve Smith and Darcy Ross, both 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, died in the wreckage alongside the A48(M) which took place just after 2am.

Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, are still being treated at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

Their vehicle was not found until 46 hours after the accident, with some family members criticizing the police for taking the lead in finding their missing relatives.

The Daily Mirror, citing a Facebook post from one of Joel’s friends, listed him among a group of people who had searched for the vehicle for “12/13 hours” before “getting the call we’re all so excited about.” feared”.

They added, “Heartbroken we couldn’t find her sooner, we all really tried for hours.”

Rafel Jeanne, Eve Smith and Darcy Ross, who died in the March 4 crash.

Rafel Jeanne, Eve Smith and Darcy Ross, who all died in the March 4 crash (Image: Facebook)

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 8: Floral tributes were left near the site of the accident near the A48 on March 8, 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. Eve Smith (21), Darcy Ross (21) and Rafel Jeanne (24) died after an accident on the A48, while Sophie Russon (20) and Shane Loughlin (32) remain in critical condition. The collision happened on Saturday night. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Floral tributes near the scene of the accident in Cardiff (Image: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Police spoke to Joel last week about the final hours leading up to the crash, as an insider said he was “fully cooperating.”

The source said: “He has cooperated fully with officers on the case and is understandably very upset by what happened that night.”

Other friends of the group have also shed light on the events surrounding their night out at the Muffler Social Club in Newport, where the six were spending time prior to the incident.

The MailOnline reported that Rafel’s ex-girlfriend posted a video of her final hug with him two days before the crash, while another friend described how he texted his phone on Saturday night, unaware that he was dead was — and found out later that Joel was doing the same.

Mystery as cops chase SIXTH passenger who exited car just before Cardiff horror strike that killed three people

Joel Lia can be seen in CCTV footage of the car involved in the accident (Image: Sky Armstrong)

Izzy Sinnott said: “I texted him on Saturday night and when he didn’t reply I thought it was a bit odd.

“Then I heard from Joel and he said the same thing — that he couldn’t reach Rafel.”

Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hoborough of Gwent Police said: “This is an extremely sad situation and our thoughts are with the families and friends of all the young people involved.

“We will continue to support the investigation and ask the public to refrain from speculating during this time.”

Gwent Police and South Wales Police are under investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct over their handling of the case.

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Justin Scacco

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