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Taunton M5 inquest: Coroner rules out firework smoke as cause of pile-up

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 17, 2014

By Rod Minchin

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A coroner has dismissed smoke from a firework display as being the cause of one of Britain’s worst motorway pile-ups.

Seven people died and 51 were injured during a series of crashes involving 34 vehicles on the southbound carriageway of the M5 near Taunton, Somerset, on the evening of November 4 2011.

Motorists have told of entering a wall of thick fog – described by some as being like a “white curtain”, “emulsion” or “custard being poured from a jug” – and were unable to prevent multiple collisions.

Other drivers have described smelling smoke or gunpowder on the motorway.

The collision happened at 8.20pm, just five minutes after a £3,000 fireworks display concluded only 200ft away at Taunton rugby club.

Grandparents Anthony Adams, 73, and his wife Pamela, 70, from Newport, South Wales; Michael Barton, 67, and his daughter Maggie, 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.

Last year firework contractor Geoffrey Counsell, 51, who had been operating the display at the rugby club, was cleared at Bristol Crown Court of breaching health and safety laws on the night of the accident.

West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose told the inquest today: “I dismiss the possible cause being the smoke from the firework display itself.”

Read more from Exeter Express and Echo

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