Probe to focus on fireworks display
Published 07/11/2011 | 05:00
Police investigating one of the worst British motorway crashes in memory said last night that they are now focusing their inquiry on a fireworks event taking place nearby around the time of the fatal accident.
The 34-vehicle pile-up, which triggered a giant fireball on the M5 in Somerset, claimed seven lives and left 51 injured on Friday evening.
Avon and Somerset Police said witnesses had reported "significant smoke" across the carriageway that was "impossible to drive through".
The probe into what caused the tragedy will be a crime investigation as well as a road policing one, with major crime teams looking into what happened, it was announced.
Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: "What I am now able to say is that our main line of inquiry has now moved towards the event that was on the side of the carriageway and we do believe that while there was fog in the area, that there was very significant smoke across the carriageway that in effect caused a bank similar to a fog bank.
"We will be doing everything we can to find out what's behind that."
Witnesses at the fireworks display -- held at Taunton Rugby Club -- were being interviewed, he said, adding that accountability was "clearly something we will look at".
He went on: "We believe from the witnesses and from what we're being told that it was smoke and not fog.
"The vehicles and people who were entering into the smoke bank have just described it as being impossible to drive through and that, of course, caused them to brake."
The rugby club has said previously that its display was over by 8.15pm.
The affected section of motorway remained closed in both directions yesterday. But police said they expected to be able to reopen it overnight.