TAUNTON M5 CRASH: Investigation could take weeks

TAUNTON M5 CRASH: Investigation could take weeks

The scene on Sunday morning.

The scene on Friday night.

The scene on Sunday afternoon

The scene on Friday night.

First published in Video

UPDATE 9pm Monday.THE Transport secretary has told Parliament the inquiry into the cause of Friday's M5 tragedy could take weeks.

In a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, Justine Greening said: "Given the large number of vehicles involved, the need to carefully look at those vehicles recovered and to talk to many of the witnesses, it may be some weeks until the investigation can conclude on any cause or causes of this incident."

UPDATE 8am Monday. RUSH hour traffic is flowing freely along the M5 past Taunton this morning, where emergency services have worked amid scenes of horror and tragedy over the weekend.

This morning, West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose, is expected to release details of when inquests will be opened and adjourned into the seven deaths that occurred at about 8.30pm on Friday night.

This website will continue to be updated throughout the week as developments unfold.

UPDATE 10.30pm Sunday. Both carriageways - northbound and southbound - have now been reopened following Friday's crash.

UPDATE 6.40pm Sunday. A SPOKESMAN for Taunton Rugby Club has given his response to the ongoing investigation into the M5 crash at Taunton.

On the night, the club had hosted a fireworks display, with no bonfire.

Colin Bentley, of the club’s promotions and marketing team, tonight told the County Gazette: “Everybody at the club is incredibly upset at the terrible loss of life in the tragedy on the M5 – no one could fail to be moved by it. My heart, soul and prayers go out to those affected.

“The club is supporting the police in their enquiries.

“I don’t believe the club has done anything improper.

“Checks and risk assessments were done.

“I am absolutely positive it finished at 8.15pm – I was timing it and it went dark.

“I later called 999 when I saw a fire – I looked across the field and there was no black smoke that I could see.”

UPDATE 5.30pm Sunday. Two Lanes of the southbound carriagway of the M5 between Bridgwater have been reopened following Friday night's accident. Four of those injured, who were taken to Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, have been released.

UPDATE 2.30pm Sunday AVON and Somerset Police Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham has said that smoke is the main feature of the M5 crash inquiry rather than fog.

Mr Bangham also said that the police are speaking to witnesses and hope to hand over the carriageway to the Highways Agency by the end of the day.

Speaking at a press conference shortly after 2pm, Mr Bangham added: “We have recovered all of the deceased personnel and are working very meticulously on the site.

“Witnesses have said there was very significant smoke which in effect caused a bank, similar to a fog bank, that was very distracting and very difficult to drive through.

“We are interviewing witnesses at the firework display and it will be a factor of the investigation. We believe smoke was a factor and not fog.”

“From witness statements it was impossible to drive through and caused people to brake.

"This incident caused a significant amount of damage to the highway; a stretch of 40 metres of road was damaged by fuel spillage from vehicles and a stretch of 60 metres was damaged by intense fire.

“We are as clear as we can be with the figure of seven lives lost, we will be working through the debris and anticipate that this figure will not go up but you can never be certain.

“We will do a final sweep on the area before we hand over the carriageway to the Highways Agency.”

“We are expecting to work for two to three hours on the carriageway and the Highways Agency have said it will take several hours to repair the road.”

There are all reports that several motorists insist it was 'white fog' and not the 'back smoke' being investigated by the police.

The police are urging anybody with video footage of the incident to come forward and everybody will be contacted.

The Highways Agency hope to have the southbound carriageway by 5pm and both directions of the motorway open by tomorrow (Monday) morning.

If you have footage of the crash or photos, send them to newsdesk@countygazette.co.uk or call 01823-365101.

UPDATE 8.30am Sunday POLICE have this morning confirmed that the total number of people killed in the Taunton M5 crash is seven.

The operation to recover the stricken vehicles has been completed.

Yesterday, it was feared the death toll would rise as the recovery work continued.

Incident commander Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: "Overnight all the vehicles involved in this tragic incident have been removed the scene. Our worst fears have NOT been realised and the number of those that sadly lost their lives remains at seven.

"Extensive work has been carried out to identify those people and families are being appointed family liaison officers to support them. Formal identification has not taken place, this will happen in the coming days.

"We are now working with our partners to carry out the required work on the carriageway and open the road as soon as it is safe to do so. We thank everyone for their support and patience and this extremely difficult time."

A police spokesman added: “The M5 between junction 24 and 25 remains closed this morning. Motorists are asked to avoid the area if possible and delay any unnecessary journeys.

“If you do need to travel please leave plenty of time for your journey as diversions are in place and the road network is heavily congested.

The emergency services appreciate the impact the closure of the motorway has on the travel plans of motorists.”

Updates will be posted here as they become available.

UPDATE 6.30pm Saturday POLICE are asking for patience as they continue to investigate the crash on the M5 at Taunton that has killed at least seven people.

This evening a police statement said: "The M5 remains closed in both directions between junctions 24 and 25.

"Motorists are asked to avoid the area if possible and delay any unnecessary journeys.

"If you do need to travel please leave plenty of time for your journey as diversions are in place and the road network is heavily congested.

"The emergency services appreciate the impact the closure of the motorway has on the travel plans of motorists.

"The closure is necessary to allow emergency services to clear the road and complete a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the collision.

"We are working with the Highways Agency to re-open the roads as soon as possible and a further update will be provided tomorrow morning.

SEVERAL people have died in a crash involving up to 27 vehicles on the M5.

The incident took place at about 8.30pm near the northbound entry sliproad at junction 25 for Taunton.

Four lorries were involved in the incident, one of which, a lorry carrying food, was severely damaged by fire.

This morning, the number of people thought to be injured has been raised to more than 40 while unconfirmed reports last night suggested as many as 12 people were feared dead.

A stretch of motorway from junctions 23 to 26 was closed last night in both directions. This morning, the route is closed between junctions 24 (Bridgwater) and 25 (Taunton). Traffic flow on the A358 through junction 25 continues.

Late last night, police turned round about seven miles of traffic that was stuck on the southbound carriageway. At 2.30am that process was nearing completion.

Last night, Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: "Undoubtedly this is a tragic incident. All emergency services are at the scene and are working tirelessly to attend to those who are injured or who are trapped in vehicles.

"We have now launched an emergency number members of the public can call if you genuinely fear for the welfare of a friend or loved one and you fear they may be injured.

"Before you call this number please make all attempts to contact them via mobile phones or via friends, family or by any other usual measures.

"If this fails and you still remain concerned please call 0800 092 0410."

This morning, a spokesman for Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton said they were treating 16 casualties for a range of trauma injuries.

Jo Cubbon, Chief Executive said, “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy. “I would like to pay tribute to the staff at Musgrove and all our emergency services partners who have responded with the utmost professionalism in these difficult circumstances.”

James, from Bridgwater, who had been stuck in the tailbacks for six hours at 2am yesterday (Saturday) morning said: "Everybody is in the same position but it would be nice to be told what is going on.

"It looks like it is going to be a big wait but we just want to be kept updated."

Taunton Deane MP Jeremy Browne praised the work of the emergency services in what he described as a 'horrific'incident.

He added: "Everyone is shocked by watching the scenes unfold after the horrific M5 crash.

"My thoughts are with the people injured and killed and their families.

"I pay tribute to the bravery and professionalism of the fantastic Somerset emergency services who have dealt with this horrendous accident.

"There has not been a crash on this scale for many years and the implications of it will be life changing for many people.

"The whole Taunton Deane community will feel traumatised by this appauling devastation in our area.”

Dr Colin Close, of Musgrove Park Hospital said: "We have staff on-call and were able to call-in nurses and surgeons.

"Sixteen people have been treated at the hospital and everybody is in a stable condition despite suffering a wide range of injuries."

Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham confirmed that both the northbound and southband carriageways will remain shut until tomorrow (Sunday).

Were you at the scene? Send your photos or videos to newsdesk@countygazette.co.uk or call 01823-365101.

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