Crash death toll expected to rise
Published 06/11/2011 | 07:41
The death toll from a devastating motorway pile-up that has already claimed at least seven lives is expected to rise as emergency crews work through the night searching the burnt-out wreckage of vehicles for more victims.
Said to be one of the worst collisions in the UK in memory, the accident on the M5 in Somerset involved 34 vehicles and left some 51 people injured.
In scenes of carnage resembling a war zone, a giant fireball triggered by the smash left cars melted into the ground, while charred and twisted metal was strewn across the carriageway.
More than 24 hours after the incident the large-scale operation to remove vehicles, check for more casualties and repair the carriageway continued at the scene overnight. Support units are also searching nearby fields and verges around the collision site.
Families who have not heard from their loved ones since the shocking incident are now beginning to fear the worst, with police starting the harrowing process of notifying the relatives of those who have lost their lives. According to reports four of the confirmed casualties were all travelling in one vehicle.
Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, of Somerset and Avon Police, said: "Seven people are confirmed to have died as a result of this tragic incident and we do believe there could be more deaths. Our thoughts are with those who may have lost loved ones as a result of last night's collision."
The motorway remained closed in both directions between junctions 24 and 25 on Sunday morning following the incident, which took place at about 8.25pm on Friday in wet and foggy conditions on the northbound carriageway. The Highways Agency said it expected the closures would remain in place until 6am on Monday.
The crash happened near junction 25 of the motorway close to Taunton Rugby Club, where a fireworks event was taking place. It was suggested that smoke from the display could have worsened the fog on the road, with reports saying the event finished just minutes before the crash.
Police could not say whether the fireworks might have been a factor, but Mr Bangham said it is "certainly something we'll be looking at closely". The rugby club's secretary has confirmed it is helping police with their inquiries.
The owner of a local fireworks company told The Mail on Sunday he had turned down the opportunity to stage a display at the rugby club two years ago because of safety concerns. "It's a very difficult site. My concern straight away was the distance from the motorway," he said.