IRISHWOMAN Ciara Neno and her husband had a miracle escape in the British M5 motorway crash that claimed seven lives over the weekend.
Mrs Neno described how, without warning, the cars in front of them ‘disappeared’.
“We were driving north at about 8.30pm and had just come onto the motorway at Taunton. The road was clear and there was no fog. There was an Iceland truck 80 yards ahead of us, probably more, and it slowed and disappeared. It was like someone had thrown a blanket over it.”
The 39-year-old originally from Stillorgan in Dublin but now living in Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset told how her husband Roger (54) hit the brakes.
“We stopped just one or two feet behind the truck. Roger said 'Hang on we are going to get hit’. We can’t figure out how we weren’t. It was like an invisible shield around us. It was like a miracle,” she said.
“We couldn’t decide whether to get out of the car. Just as we were about to, we saw another car coming down the fast lane, hit the barrier and come back towards us without its engine.
“There was a ring of cars around us. When we got out we thought there was rain falling on us but it was fuel. There was fire and explosions all around us.
“Roger got a wheel brace and started smashing windows to get people out. He got to about three. He got one young girl out of one car but there was a woman trapped underneath. There were people pinned to crash barriers.
"All you could hear was screaming and crying. And the smell. It was like a living hell, the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced. We’ve been through a really horrible ordeal, but people have lost their lives and I am conscious that people are suffering,” she said.
Neither she nor her husband were hurt but they had been having nightmares about the crash since it happened, she said.
Meanwhile a teenage girl, Emma Barton, injured in the M5 motorway pile-up, is in a coma and unaware that her father and sister are among the dead.
The 19-year-old remains in a medically-induced coma in hospital after Friday night's multi-vehicle collision near Taunton, Somerset.
Her father Michael, believed to be 67, and her sister Maggie, thought to be 23, died in the smash. It is understood her mother died just a few years ago.
Mr Barton, who is wheelchair-bound, and his young daughters were on their way home in Windsor from a funeral when they became victims of the accident.
Emma Barton is believed to work as a carer in a hospice in Berkshire, while she also volunteers at a charity shop.
Neighbours were in "deep shock" and said that Mr Barton had been "quite poorly" for sometime.
A young woman, who answered the door of the family home in Windsor, said: “It’s just too soon for me to talk about it. We are just devastated. I grew up with them and have known them all my life.”
“They were very close,” said the woman, who did not want to be named. "I think they just had each other.”
She described Maggie Barton as “the loveliest person you could ever meet”. Another neighbour said Maggie was “everyone’s friend” on the small street they lived on.
Emma Barton’s fiancé Chris Burbull, 23, was also admitted to hospital in the crash. It is understood Mr Burbull was at the wheel of the car when it crashed
Neighbours at the home of his mother and stepfather, in Slough, Berks, said that they had heard Mr Burbull was injured in the crash but that his injuries were not life threatening.
On Sunday night his parents left their home to be with their son at the Musgrove Park hospital in Taunton.
Friends said Miss Barton was barely alive and Mr Burbull was maintaining a bedside vigil.
"Chris is really worried about Emma," said Laura Kyte, 20.
"They met as teenagers and I think they've been together for about five years. They are a lovely couple. They'd do anything for anyone and are great to have as friends.
"We are all in total shock. It's awful."
Detectives have confirmed that they believe the collision, the worst on a British road since 1991, may have been caused by smoke from a nearby firework display, which obscured drivers' vision.
Officers from Avon and Somerset police are to investigate the display, which took place at Taunton Rugby Club. In particular, they will examine whether the club had permission from the local council and the police before staging the event.
More than 50 people were taken to hospital after the collision.