A police boss has choked back tears while speaking about the death of his colleague in a high-speed smash that has rocked the force to its core.
Joanne Shanahan, 55, died in a crash involving three cars on Saturday at 1.40pm in Urrbrae, south of Adelaide.
Witnesses said one of the cars was speeding and had run a red light moments before the deadly collision at the intersection of Cross Road and Fullerton Road.
Chief-Supt Shanahan – a mother-of-two and a well-respected detective chief superintendent – was in the Holden SUV driven by her husband Peter Shanahan.
Mr Shanahan is a former detective and survived the crash.
South Australia police commissioner Grant Stevens – who previously worked with Mr Shanahan – fought back tears speaking about the tragedy during a press conference on Sunday.
The car was driven by Chief-Supt Shanahan’s husband (centre with Joanna Shanahan) and survived the crash. The couple have two children (left and right)
‘Sadly the real tragedy of road fatalities has been brought home to South Australia police yesterday when we lost one of our finest senior police officers,’ commissioner Stevens said.
‘Not only have we lost a beautiful person, we’ve lost an officer with a wealth of knowledge.’
He said the scene was the most horrific he’d ever attended.
‘It was absolute carnage.’
Mr Shanahan recovered and is at home with his family.
South Australia police commissioner Grant Stevens almost broke down as spoke about the tragedy during a press conference on Sunday
Chief-Supt Shanahan was only the third woman in the history of the state’s police force to rise to the rank of chief superintendent.
Chief-Supt Shanahan received an Australian Police Medal last year as part of the Australia Day Honours.
‘Coming from quite a strict Greek background and going into the police force as a female was quite significant for my family,’ she told The Adelaide Advertiser in January 2019 about her Australia Day award.
‘They were totally shocked that their daughter wanted to be a police officer. But when I was accepted they were proud as punch.’
In November, Chief-Supt Shanahan issued a warning to the community to be safe on the roads.
Chief-Supt Shanahan, a veteran of more than three decades with South Australia Police, received a police medal last year as part of the Australia Day Honours
‘Please be safe on the roads,’ she said.
‘Please be careful – think about what you leave behind.’
Tania McNeill, 53, a married mother-of-one and the driver of a silver BMW involved in the crash, also died at the scene.
She was delivery goods for her family’s business when she was killed in the collision.
‘Words cannot describe the pain our family is feeling at this time,’ her family said in a statement.
Scene of the crash pictured. Chief-supt Shanahan died at the scene along with another woman
A 20-year-old man in a third vehicle, a VW ute, is in hospital in a critical condition after suffering life-threatening injuries.
SA Police said they are investigating whether excessive speed may have played a role in the fatal collision.
Witnesses had told the ABC a Volkswagen four-wheel drive flew into the air before hitting a streetlight.
Another witness told 9 News he saw one of the cars speed through the suburban intersection without its brake lights on seconds before the collision.
‘There was a car airborne right in front of my window, another car came through the wall, another car hit the wall. There was debris flying through the air,’ one woman said.
Witnesses said a Volkswagen four-wheel drive flew into the air before hitting a streetlight
‘It was an explosion, basically a bomb scene going off,’ a man told the network.
Pictures taken after the collision showed wreckage and debris strewn across the road and a car on its side.
South Australia Police Superintendent Craig Wall said it was a ‘horrific scene and tragic for everyone involved’.
‘The scene is … tragic for not only the families but for the emergency services attending here today.’