Decorated senior police officer killed in horror crash
One of South Australia's top-ranking and most decorated police officers has been killed in a horrific high-speed crash that also claimed the life of another woman.
Chief Superintendent Joanne Shanahan, 55, died in the three-car collision at the intersection of Cross Rd and Fullarton Rd, Urrbrae, at 1.40pm on Saturday.
Chief-Supt Shanahan, who has also served as acting assistant commissioner, was the passenger in a Holden SUV driven by her husband Peter Shanahan.
Mr Shanahan, 63, a former detective and now SA Police General Counsel, sustained minor injuries and was treated at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
He has been discharged and is with his adult son and daughter.
Tania McNeill, 53, of St Peters, who was the sole occupant of a silver BMW, also died in the crash, while the driver of a VW ute - an Urrbrae man, 20 - sustained life-threatening injuries. He remains in a critical condition in hospital.
Police Commissioner Grant Stevens and Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams confirmed the deaths of Chief-Supt Shanahan and Ms McNeill on Sunday.
Mr Stevens fought back tears as he told a media conference how the tragedy of road fatalities had been brought home to police with the loss of "one of our finest senior police officers".
"Not only have we lost a beautiful person but we've lost an officer with a wealth of knowledge," an emotional Mr Stevens said.
"Detective Chief-Supt Joanne Shanahan leaves an overwhelming mark on SA Police."
Mr Stevens said police had been overwhelmed by the outpouring of grief for Chief-Supt Shanahan from other officers and the public.
"She had a passion for helping people and she cared about people - not just her friends and her family - but people she genuinely held concerns for and supported during very difficult times as a police officer," he said.
"I know of many people who had an enduring friendship with Joanne as a result of that. It's a true testament to her that so many people are grieving at this time."
Mr Stevens also read a statement of behalf of Ms McNeill's family.
"We lost our beloved Tania at the age of 53. Tania is survived by her husband, son, parents and sister," the statement said.
"Tania was a loving, vibrant lady who enjoyed a good laugh. She was a kind and loving mother, wife, daughter and sister who would do anything for anyone.
"She will be greatly missed by family and friends. Tania worked extremely hard in her day job as well as helping out with the family business.
"Words cannot describe the pain our family are feeling at this time. Tania's loss will be deeply felt by so many."
Mr Stevens said excessive speed was understood to be a factor in the crash but that the investigation was ongoing.
"I've been to many crash scenes but that was one of the most horrific crash scenes I've ever attended," he said.
"It was absolute carnage and it was shocking to see and I'm still concerned about the officers who had to deal with that particular incident and I certainly reach out to the other emergency services personnel who were in attendance and we're grateful for the work they did."
Premier Steven Marshall offered his heartfelt condolences to the families of Chief-Supt Shanahan and Ms McNeill.
"One of South Australia's most senior police officers, Chief-Supt Joanne Shanahan, lost her life in circumstances she worked so hard to prevent," Mr Marshall said.
"She was a long-serving and valued member of the South Australia Police and my thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues."
Police Minister Corey Wingard said he was "shattered to learn that one of our own has been killed in tragic circumstances".
"Chief-Supt Joanne Shanahan was a long-serving and valued member of the South Australia Police and my thoughts are with her family, friends and many colleagues at this devastating time," Mr Wingard said.
"I stood alongside Chief-Supt Shanahan on a number of occasions pleading with drivers to be safe on our roads.
"I'm so deeply sorry that, (on Saturday), she and (Ms McNeill) were the victims of actions and outcomes Chief-Supt Shanahan tried so hard to change.
"I plead with everyone to stop being selfish on our roads and don't be the cause of taking away the life of a much loved family member, friend or colleague."
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said he was "shocked and immensely saddened by the tragic news".
"I know her passing will have a profound impact on not just her family, friends and colleagues but to the many South Australians she helped during her distinguished career," Mr Malinauskas said.
"I also pass on my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Tania McNeill who also lost her life in this tragic incident.
"I can't begin to imagine the pain they are going through now."
Chief-Supt Shanahan joined the force in 1981 and was just the third woman in SA Police history to be appointed Chief Superintendent and received the Australian Police Medal in the 2019 Australia Day honours.
Her career spanned more than three decades and involved major cases that shocked the state, including the child abuse uncovered in the northern suburbs House of Horrors in 2008.
In an interview about her Australia Day award,Chief-Supt Shanahan, the daughter of Greek immigrants, revealed she did not really speak English until she started attending school.
"Coming from quite a strict Greek background and going into the police force as a female was quite significant for my family," Chief-Supt Shanahan told The Advertiser in January 2019.
"They were totally shocked that their daughter wanted to be a police officer. But when I was accepted they were proud as punch."
Chief-Supt Shanahan first decided to pursue a career in law enforcement at the age of 17 and graduated from the police cadet course in 1983.
She built a career investigating domestic violence and child-abuse cases and was appointed officer-in-charge of a specialised unit in 1999.
Five months ago, ahead of police road safety operation targeting the fatal five offences, Chief-Supt Shanahan declared urgent action was required to curb the state's spiralling road toll.
"As a state, and as a community, we can't go on like this," Chief-Supt Shanahan said.
The double fatality takes the number of lives lost on the state's roads this year to 39 - the same as this time last year.
Chief-Supt Shanahan's death comes just three days after four Victorian police officers were killed when they were hit by a truck at Kew on Wednesday.
The officers had pulled over a speeding Porsche driver travelling at 140km/h on the Eastern Freeway and were interviewing him when the tragedy happened.
Originally published as Decorated senior police officer killed in horror crash