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HAUGHEY SON IN DEATH CRASH; Girl killed as jeep overturns.

The son of disgraced former Taoiseach Charles Haughey has had a miracle escape from a horror car smash.

Conor Haughey was in a jeep that overturned at an exclusive Caribbean holiday resort.

He escaped with broken ribs but a 22-year-old female companion was killed.

Two other people in the jeep survived the accident on a mountain road on Thursday.

The dead woman has been named as Denise Hale from Blackrock Co Louth.

Mr Haughey, 39, who broke four ribs in the smash on the Virgin Islands, was "comfortable" in hospital last night.

Speaking from his bed a deeply shocked Mr Haughey described the tragedy.

"The jeep flipped over two or three times and I was thrown from it," he said.

"I had a very lucky escape and was conscious throughout.

"Denise was not so lucky. She died instantly."

Conor, who rang his father in Ireland to inform him, added: "The others weren't too bad, but I'm in quite a lot of pain.

"The doctors have told me to rest and my ribs will mend in time.

"My father was very saddened by the death, but obviously relieved that I was okay.

"I'm going to make my own way home as soon as I'm allowed to leave hospital."

The other two passengers escaped with minor injuries but are being treated for shock. One suffered minor abrasions

the other man a severe head cut.

All four had been cruising in the Caribbean aboard the former Taoiseach's luxury yacht The Celtic Mist. Denise was a crew member.

It's the latest blow to hit the ageing ex-premier and friends fear the effect the tragedy will have in the wake of his troubles with the Dunnes payments tribunal.

He phoned Denise's distraught family from his Kinsealy home to offer his sympathies.

He told her parents Mary and Tim that he had met the popular yachts woman only once but she had left a lasting impression. The dead woman's only sister Elizabeth said: "Denise was always the life and soul of the party.

"If you brought her into a roomful of strangers she would know everyone by the end of the night. She never had a bad word about anybody."

Tragic Denise was fulfilling a lifelong dream when she set out on the cruise.

Elizabeth said: "She took a three-month sailing course in the Isle of Wight and had qualified as a yachtsperson.

"She was working in a bar in Blackrock when she got the opportunity to do this trip."

The party had set sail from Kinsale in Cork six weeks ago and were relaxing before flying home on Tuesday.

The tragedy happened on the British Virgin Island of Tortola.

Mr Haughey, Ms Hale and the other two crew members were sightseeing in a hired open-top jeep prior to a scuba-diving trip.

One report suggested the brakes on the vehicle failed and the driver mounted an embankment in a bid to slow down but overturned. Yacht skipper Peter Cronin said: "We are all in shock. We do not know what to do.

"My sympathies go to Denise's family.

"The two injured people will be released from hospital today. Conor will be kept in for another day.

"Denise was unlucky. It was the way they were all thrown from the jeep."

Conor Haughey's wife Jackie had been preparing a surprise 40th birthday party for her husband when she heard about the accident.

Friends of the family said both she and the former Taoiseach were very upset at the tragedy. "Family always comes first with Mr Haughey," one friend said.

Police on the idyllic holiday isle have launched an inquiry.

A post mortem will be carried our on Denise's body and her remains are expected to be flown home next week.

Police in the British Virgin Islands have declined to comment about the accident, which they are investigating.
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Article Details
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Author:Leslie, Neil
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 15, 1997
Words:640
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