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Motorway pile-up 'like pinball'

Wed, 27 Nov 2013 00:00:00 -0800

DRIVERS involved in a fatal pile-up on a motorway entered a "wall of blackness" before suffering numerous impacts as if they were "a pinball machine", a jury heard.

Seven people died and 51 were injured after 34 cars collided when a section of the M5 in Somerset was suddenly "engulfed in thick smog".

Anthony and Pamela Adams, Maggie and Michael Barton, Malcolm Beacham, Terry Brice and Kye Thomas died in the incident, on November 4 2011.

Bristol Crown Court heard witnesses describe how smoke "built up" during a fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club and drifted across the nearby carriageway.

Collisions began just six minutes after the £3,000 display, which had been organised by Geoffrey Counsell, 51, and involved 1,500 shots in 15 minutes.

Counsell, of Ashill in Somerset, is charged with breaching health and safety regulations by failing to ensure the safety of others, which he denies.

Victims involved in a series of horrific collisions on the north bound carriageway told how conditions on the road were fine until they were suddenly plunged into "darkness".

Motorist Stephen Kingsland, who was driving his silver Ford Galaxy along the motorway, provided a statement, which was read to the jury.

"Within a fraction of a second, it seemed my windscreen went completely white, as if a blanket had been thrown over it," he said.

"I was completely taken by surprise. The first thing I noticed was three brake lights illuminated in front of me.

"I immediately thought I was going to hit the vehicle in front so braked as hard as I could, it was a full emergency brake situation.

"I can't remember what happened next apart from to say I was hit at least four to five times from the side to the rear.

"At this point I thought the next was going to kill me and felt very vulnerable. I would liken it to being in a pinball machine."

Counsell organised and carried out his 'Jupiter Display' at Taunton Rugby club between 8 and 8.20pm to around 1,000 spectators.

Sally McKellar, who attended the event with her four children, said smoke from the fireworks built up before moving towards the motorway.

"The fireworks were quite smoky," Mrs McKellar said. "After the display, as we were walking off I saw the smoke on the pitch moving quite quickly towards the motorway.

"It was like all the smoke just collected itself together and off it went."

Drivers on the motorway before the collisions - which began just after 8.20pm - told the jury they were lucky to have escaped unscathed.

Stephen Crowle, who was driving from Plymouth, Devon, to Gloucestershire with wife Susan, said: "We suddenly hit what I consider almost like a black wall.

"Thankfully there was little traffic - instinctively when you are hit with no visibility you brake."

His wife, Susan Crowle told the court she opened the window after their Nissan Qashqai passed through the dark patch and smelt "firework smoke".

Just minutes after Mr and Mrs Crowle passed through the area safely, other motorists were involved in a series of collisions.

The trial continues.


By Claire Hayhurst, Press Association