M5 crash: Two lorry drivers among crash dead

Scene of M5 crash in Somerset
Image caption Emergency workers said at least six HGVs were involved in the crash

Two lorry drivers were among seven people killed in the M5 crash in Somerset, it has emerged.

Kye Thomas, 38, of Gunnislake, Cornwall, and Terry Brice, 55, of Patchway near Bristol, died in the 34-vehicle crash on Friday night.

Police investigating the cause are treating a nearby fireworks display as a "major line of inquiry".

Other victims of the accident included Malcolm Beacham from Woolavington, in Somerset.

Emma Barton, from Windsor in Berkshire, was seriously injured in the crash at junction 25, near Taunton. Her boyfriend Chris Burbull was also hurt.

Firework display

Thames Hospicecare, where Ms Barton works and where Mr Burbull does voluntary work, said it was "deeply shocked".

"Our heartfelt thoughts and sympathy are with Emma, Chris and their families at this critical time," said a statement.

On Sunday, police confirmed married couple Tony and Pam Adams, from Newport, south Wales, were the first victims identified to have been among those who died.

Taunton Rugby Club, which had organised the firework display, said it was assisting police with the investigation, which will focus on whether smoke wafted across the carriageway.

"We are helping the police in any way we can to ascertain the cause of this tragedy," said the club in a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families of those involved in the terrible events of Friday night."

Leicestershire-based Samworth Brothers, the firm that employed the lorry drivers, added that a third employee was injured.

The firm, which owns pasty makers Ginsters, said it was "shocked and saddened" by the deaths of two of its drivers.

Mark Samworth, a director of the company, said: "The thoughts of everyone at Samworth Brothers are with the families and friends of all these individuals and others involved in this terrible incident.

"Our main priority at the moment is to offer as much support and help as needed to the families of those who have died and to the injured driver and his family.

'Bank of smoke'

"It is also a very difficult time for other colleagues at Samworth Brothers Distribution and we are ensuring our people are being well supported."

The family of Mr and Mrs Adams said they were heartbroken at their loss.

Canon Andrew Willie said the couple, who were in their 70s, had been teenage sweethearts who were together for more than 50 years.

Taunton Deane Borough Council is meeting police officers to talk through event licence requirements.

In a statement, the council said "fireworks displays are not licensable activities under the Licensing Act" and the Health and Safety Executive issued guidance to display operators and organisers.

Police have not established what caused the crash but said "a bank of smoke" had been across the M5 at the time.

The motorway has now reopened in both directions.

It is thought 53 people were injured in the pile-up, which happened on the northbound carriageway.

Avon and Somerset Police Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said his focus was the Friday night event and people who had attended the fireworks display would be interviewed by officers.

"Our main line of inquiry has now moved towards the event that was on the side of the carriageway," he said.

"We do believe that whilst there was fog and difficult conditions in the area, that actually from witness evidence there was very significant smoke across the carriageway which in effect caused a bank, similar to a fog bank, and this was very distracting and very difficult to drive through.

"We will be doing everything we can to find out as quickly as we're able to what's behind that."

He added: "Accountability is clearly something we will look at when you've had an incident such as this."

Police said a 40m (131ft) stretch of the carriageway had been damaged by fuel spillage and a 60m (197ft) stretch by "intense fire". All the vehicles involved in the crash have now been removed from the scene.

Of the injured, 25 were taken to Yeovil District Hospital, 19 of the more seriously injured taken to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton and nine were treated at the scene.

Twenty-three of those taken to Yeovil have since been discharged.

Musgrove Park Hospital said eight people had been discharged and 11 were still being treated.

Hundreds of people have paid tribute to the dead and injured and their families on Facebook.

The coroner for West Somerset, Michael Rose, said he planned to open inquests into the deaths of the seven victims of the crash on Thursday.

"I have requested three forensic pathologists to carry out post-mortem [tests] today on the seven victims of the tragic incident," he said.

In the nearby town of Bridgwater, about 1,000 people observed a minute's silence at the carnival statue at 12:00 GMT on Sunday.

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