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M5 inquest hears from witnesses

The scene on the M5 after crash Photo: Chris Ison/PA Wire/Press Association Images

An inquest into the deaths of seven people who died after a crash on the M5 has heard from witnesses. Motorists who saw one of the worst motorway pile-ups in the country described smelling gunpowder and seeing a wall of thick fog moments before the fatal crash. Other motorists told how they hit "emulsion" and a "white curtain" as they drove along the M5 near Taunton, Somerset on the night of November 4 2011.

Seven people died and 51 were injured in the crash, which happened close to Junction 25 of the motorway.

A series of horrific collisions, which involved 34 vehicles, occurred on the south bound carriageway at 8.20pm - minutes after a £3,000 fireworks display ended just 200ft away at Taunton rugby club.

Grandparents Anthony, 73, and Pamela Adams, 70, from Newport, South Wales; father and daughter Michael, 67, and Maggie Barton, 30, from Windsor, Berkshire; battle re-enactor Malcolm Beacham, 46, from Woolavington, Somerset; and lorry drivers Terry Brice, 55, from South Gloucestershire, and Kye Thomas, 38, from Cornwall all died and 51 people were injured, including some seriously.

Flowers and tributes left on a bridge overlooking the M5 at Taunton Credit: Rod Minchin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

West Somerset coroner Michael Rose resumed the hearing at Shire Hall, Taunton following the trial last year of firework contractor Geoffrey Counsell. Mr Counsell, 51, who had been operating a display at the rugby club, was cleared at Bristol Crown Court of breaching health and safety laws on the night of the accident.

The inquest heard from a series of witnesses who all drove past Taunton on the motorway within an hour of the crash.

Lorry driver John Krostovnikoff was heading to Staffordshire from Exeter when he suddenly hit a wall of thick fog just after 7pm in the Taunton area.

"My visibility was clear and suddenly I was driving through... like a wall, then two seconds later I was through it.

"I took my foot off the gas. If I braked hard and there was someone behind, you might have caused an accident.

"Two seconds in and out and I thought no more of it. It was unusual because you normally see it coming but it was clear, then like going through a wall - it was very dense."

– John Krostovnikoff, lorry driver

Luke Allen, who works as a handyman for Avon and Somerset Police, joined the northbound carriageway of the motorway at Junction 25 about an hour before the crash.

"As I joined the motorway it was fine. Not far from joining the motorway there was a wall of mist or fog right in front of me. It was a like a white blanket... a curtain. It was like a white curtain in front of you appearing to be right across the carriageway.

It was a dense white substance and I slowed down by decelerating. It took three to five seconds to pass through.

It was like white emulsion, pure white. I remember thinking to myself that it didn't have any odour.

You were in it and out of it and back to normal."

– Luke Allen, handyman for Avon and Somerset Police

Delivery driver Ian Thorne was returning to his depot in Taunton when he hit a wall of thick smoke 200 yards long just a few minutes before the fatal crash.

"It wasn't very good visibility. I could see fireworks and then I could see the smoke they were giving off and I could see it was going to the direction of the motorway. It was white but I could see through it but I could also see it was 200 yards thick. It smelt of gunpowder."

– Ian Thorne, delivery driver

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