THREE women have been killed in a horrific car smash as a celebration turned to tragedy.
The 58-year-old driver and her 85-year-old front seat passenger, both from Sunderland, died at the scene.
The 84-year-old back seat passenger, also from Wearside, was flown by air ambulance to hospital, but died later from her injuries.
All three were believed to have been travelling to a graduation ceremony in Leeds.
The tragedy comes as a 71-year-old man, from the Sunderland area, died when his motorbike was involved in a crash on the A19 near Hartlepool last night.
The triple fatality happened when the women’s Vauxhall Corsa was in a collision with a HGV near Harewood, West Yorkshire, just before 7.30pm on Wednesday. The HGV driver was not hurt.
The road was closed for about six hours as crash investigators attempted to determine the cause of the accident.
Firefighters from Moortown, Cookridge and Rawdon worked with paramedics and police to release the women.
Moortown Station Watch Commander Neil Stainthorpe said: “We used hydraulic cutting equipment to release the casualties, working in conjunction with the ambulance service and the police.”
Cookridge Crew Commander Michael Knox said: “We had to cut the vehicle to get the casualties out. We took the roof off.”
In the North East, a Suzuki motorbike and a non-UK registered Peugeot 807 were in a collision on the A19 southbound, close to the Elwick junction, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, at 7.50pm yesterday.
Police have not yet released his name, but said family members have been informed.
Both the north and southbound carriageways were closed for five hours while police and ambulance crews dealt with the incident.
The roads reopened shortly before 1am today.
A spokesman for Cleveland Police said: “Police are investigating a fatal collision that occurred at around 7.50pm on the A19 southbound carriageway near to the Elwick turn off.
“The collision involved a motorbike and a car.
“The rider of the motorbike, a male in his 70s, was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.
“The driver of the car, a 48-year-old foreign national male, has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.”