One year on

Flowers and tributes left on a bridge overlooking the M5 at Taunton, Somerset.
Flowers and tributes left on a bridge overlooking the M5 at Taunton, Somerset. Seven people were killed in the crash exactly one year ago. Photo: Rod Minchin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

This time last year I was unlucky enough to receive a call from my news desk to head to the crash on the M5.

I was told simply to expect the worst - details were sketchy, but I was told a number of people had lost their lives.

I found my way to a lane behind Taunton rugby club from where I could clearly see the flashing lights of the emergency services on the Motorway. I clambered up onto the carriageway, and at the same time a police dog patrol arrived.

They too had the same feeling of grim apprehension. Their task was to search in the darkness for anyone who may have been flung from their vehicles.

On the northbound carriageway I was struck by the view. In the distance were neat lines of police cars and ambulances. Behind them, I could see a number of cars and two lorries that had stopped at angles across the carriageway. They were acting as a screen to what lay behind - a cloud of rising smoke where vehicles had been engulfed in flames from leaking fuel that had caught alight.

I walked nearer and met a breakdown truck driver who was expecting to move vehicles. He told me four people had been killed and he was going no further.

On the southbound carriageway there was simply stationary traffic, behind an area filled with emergency services vehicles.

Standing behind the fire engines, I waited. Ahead of me between the gaps of the ambulances and fire engines I could see emergency teams working to try to free from someone trapped in their car.

The atmosphere, as I stood, was surreal. It was a very calm place. Despite the horrific crash site, the emergency service personnel were just quietly and calmly getting on with their jobs. A group of around a dozen policeman were waiting to be called on, they were all stood silently.

At one point I was told to stop filming, but again it was a policeman from the crowd who just came over quietly and said, "You need to stop, you can't see what I can see over there." He was referring to a medical team who were working on a patient on the hard shoulder.

The response by the emergency services has received nothing but praise. They deserve it too. They had arrived in large numbers and acted quickly, and they undoubtedly save lives.

There were rumours that up to twelve people may have been killed, though we didn't broadcast that. The emergency services couldn't tell how many vehicles had been caught in the fire and even twenty-four hours later, they thought there would be more cars to discover in the wreckage.

There was huge relief that that wasn't the case. Most people had escaped.

The victims were a random group of motorists, they included lorry drivers, a gas centre manager, but perhaps worst of all, two in a car carrying a family returning from a funeral in Cornwall.

There were many survivors including and more than fifty walking wounded and there will be those too who face mental scars after what they saw.

We heard the phrase in the days that followed - our thoughts are with those who have lost love ones - but my thoughts are also with the few who faced life-changing injuries and have to rebuild their lives, and those too who are haunted by their memories of that night.