Expert stresses importance of M5 crash investigation

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Expert stresses importance of M5 crash investigation

7th November 2011

A fatal road collisions expert has emphasised how important it is that investigators find out exactly what may have caused last Friday’s tragic incident on the M5 - now known to be Britain’s worst motorway tragedy in 20 years.

Deborah Johnson, head of the serious and fatal collisions department at Fentons Solicitors LLP was speaking as Avon and Somerset police continue their investigation into possible contributing factors regarding the 34 vehicle pile-up which claimed seven lives and injured over fifty people.

“It is paramount that investigators ascertain exactly what may have caused this horrific tragedy,” said Deborah, a partner at the firm. “Initial suggestions were that drivers had become distracted by fog. It is now crucial investigators determine whether there may have been any other additional factors on top of the reported fog, which may have contributed to the incident involving so many vehicles.

Possible causes of the incident - which occurred at 8:25pm on the northbound carriageway of the M5 at junction 25, near Taunton - are being investigated by Avon and Somerset police major crime teams who are working alongside collision investigators and have confirmed they are treating a nearby fireworks display as a ‘major line of inquiry.’

Taunton Rugby Club, whose fireworks display took place a few hundred metres from the crash site and ended at 8:15pm shortly before the incident, is assisting police with the investigation.

“According to witnesses at the scene, driving conditions on Friday night were already difficult owing to the presence of fog,” said Deborah. “The fog was then compounded by a significant ‘bank of smoke’ similar to a fog bank which descended on the northbound carriageway, distracting motorists and greatly hindering their visibility.

“Motorists who were involved in the incident have described how it was virtually impossible to see properly whilst driving through the smoke,” added Deborah. “They went on to describe how many had been forced to brake suddenly as a result and how this had led to so many collisions.”

Police said a 40m (131ft) stretch of the northbound carriageway had been damaged by fuel spillage and a 60m (197ft) stretch by ‘intense fire’. All the vehicles involved in the incident have now been removed from the scene. The M5, which was closed between junctions 24 and 25 after the crash, has now reopened in both directions.

Of the 51 injured, 25 were taken to Yeovil District Hospital, 17 of the more seriously injured are being treated at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton and nine were treated at the scene.

Twenty-three of those taken to Yeovil have since been discharged. Four people have been discharged from Musgrove Park Hospital while another 12 are still being treated. Inquests for those who died are to be opened by the West Somerset coroner on Thursday.

"After an incident as deadly as this, it is essential to find out what may have caused such a devastating pile-up,” said Deborah. “This should be done as soon as possible, so that any such similarly awful incidents can be prevented from happening in the future.”

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