Saturday, November 05, 2011

'Several dead' in M5 crash

At least 43 people have been injured and several people killed in Britain's worst motorway accident in 20 years.

The crash occurred on the northbound carriageway of the M5 near Taunton, Somerset in the west of England at around 20:30 on Friday [05/11/2011]. While the cause of the crash was not immediately clear many eyewitnesses spoke of heavy rain and fog in the area at the time of the incident.

Drivers passing the accident on the opposite carriageway spoke of their shock in seeing the twisted wreckage. Twenty light vehicles and 6 lorries were involved in the crash and some of the vehicles burst into flames.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service sent 20 appliances to the scene from Taunton, Glastonbury, Bridgwater, Wiveliscombe, Wellington, Burnham on Sea, and Yeovil. Fires burned ferociously for some time.

Motorists passing the accident said the heat was intense. Amateur footage showed several balls of flames and police spoke of a "massive fireball" enveloping the wrecked vehicles.

Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, of Avon and Somerset Police, said "several people" had died but he could not yet be specific about numbers. The nature of the accident made it very difficult to clarify how many perished in the accident. "Most vehicles were well alight and most continued to burn for a considerable time," he said. "This made it very difficult to search the vehicles. Some of them have been burned to the ground."

One man who had tried to get close to the accident to help the victims told the BBC he had been unable to get near and was beaten back by the heat. One passing motorist Steven Swift described the scene as "horrific" with victims lying on the carriageway and several vehicles in flames.

Bev Davis, who had been in a field near the motorway looking after her horses, described a disturbing atmosphere. "There was this horrific sound of a horn. The horn was just permanent," she said. "You knew something had gone on and then the flames were just so high so quickly and the noise was horrific. And then there were explosions, I think probably of tyres going."

Last night police said that 10 people had "life changing" injuries, and indication to the seriousness of the injuries sustained by those who survived. In all some 43 people were inured and up to twenty were still being treated in hospital as dawn broke.

Musgrove Park Hospital said they were treating 16 people with "a range of trauma injuries" who were involved in the accident. Two others were at Yeovil District Hospital with other hospitals adding logistical support. A spokesman said most of the walking wounded were treated at Yeovil while Musgrove Park Hospital were treating the more seriously injured. Victims had sustained a range of injuries including fractures of the fibula and tibia, abdominal injuries, chest injuries and collapsed lungs.

The motorway is not expected to open for some time as the police investigate the cause of the accident. The Highways Agency said the stretch of motorway was not expected to reopen until 21:00 on Saturday evening. Parts of the motorway may even have to be re-tarmaced as the fires may have severely damaged the road surface.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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