TWO best friends were killed and a third badly injured after their car plunged 150ft down a local hillside.
Driver Darren McDonald, 21, and friend Rory Strachan, 20 — both of Banchory — died in the horror crash.
Survivor Alan Michie, 20, of Midmar, was left seriously ill in hospital.
The trio were travelling in a Peugeot 106 on their way to watch a car rally when the tragedy happened just after 9am on Saturday (May 1).
The accident took place on the Fettercairn side of the B974 Cairn O'Mount Road , near the local landmark known as Clatterin' Brig.
All three were rushed to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, but Darren and Rory could not be saved.
Welder Alan Michie was also taken to hospital, where his condition has been described as “stable.” His family and girlfriend have been keeping a bedside vigil.
Unemployed Rory, who lived in Tillybrake Gardens in Banchory, suffered from cystic fibrosis.
His devastated mother Jane, said: “His friend Alan is still seriously ill and his friend Darren died as well. It's a dreadful waste.
“Rory had cystic fibrosis and has been seriously ill, but he would not let it tell him how to live his life.”
She requested that instead of flowers, people gave a donation to cystic fibrosis research.
News of his son Darren's death dealt a second tragic blow to Dave McDonald, whose wife also died in a car accident.
Mr McDonald, 47, said his family had been left devastated. “Words cannot describe what the family is going through at the moment,” said Mr McDonald, whose wife Yvonne, 37, was killed when her car collided with a van six years ago. “Darren's mum also died in a car accident. This is all very hard.”
Mr McDonald paid tribute to his mechanic son, describing him as a “popular young man.”
He said: “He loved cars, loved football and had lots of friends — so many that I have trouble keeping track of them all. He wasn't someone who went out all the time but he was a popular young guy who really loved life.
“He went out socialising quite a lot but he spent most of his time out in the car visiting friends.
“The last time I saw him was on Friday night when he was on his way out. The last thing I said to him was 'Take care of yourself,' as I always did.”
Darren, of St Aidan Crescent in Banchory, also leaves a 23-year-old sister Elaina.
Shocked friends were quick to pay tribute to the tragic duo.
Rory's flatmate Ricky Strachan, 23,(no relation), said: “They were all good friends and were going to watch a car rally at Edzell.
“Rory was always one for having a laugh, he made the most out of life and had a lot of friends. He was always smiling and laughing.”
Fellow friend Ian McLellan, 23, said of Darren: “Darren loved his cars and watching rallying. It is still sinking in — you expect them to come back through the door. You cannot imagine what their families are going through.”
One of the trio was flown to hospital by air ambulance while the other two were taken by ambulance by road.
A team of a dozen firefighters had battled to cut the back seat passenger free from the car.
Grampian Fire and Rescue Service assistant Divisional Officer Shaun Burns said: “I do not know what the cause was but the car had left the road.
“There is a steep hill and the car had rolled about 50 metres down the hill and come to a rest. It had been tumbling.
“There were three casualties in the car, two had been removed by passers-by and we released the third — a rear seat passenger — after getting access for the paramedics.”
He said their condolences went out to to their families and friends, and sympathies to those of the third in hospital.
“It's always sad to see the loss of young lives in such tragic circumstances, which seem to happen often,” he said.
Grampian Police Inspector Stuart Wright described the accident as “a scene of devastation.”
The road remained closed for seven hours while collision investigators examined the scene.
Any witnesses to the crash should call Grampian police on 0845 600 5 700.