Firework smoke 'not cause' of M5 death crash in which Newport couple died

Firework smoke 'not cause' of M5 death crash

DIED: Tony and Pam Adams

CRASH: The scene on the M5 after the crash in 2011

First published in Gwent news
Last updated

A CORONER said smoke from a firework display was not the cause of one of Britain's worst motorway pile-ups.

Seven people died, including two from Newport 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; 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."

Mr Rose concluded that all of the victims died on the M5, except for Miss Barton who died later in hospital.

"All the deceased were travelling in motor vehicles on the northbound carriageway when the vehicles in which they were travelling entered an area of reduced visibility and collisions occurred as the drivers became disorientated," he said.

"There were in the Taunton area pockets of very dense fog - in some cases of such density that only occur possibly once or maybe twice in a decade. At the time of the accident the pockets were generally small, save for areas running alongside water courses such as the River Tone, and at 8pm there was an area of dense fog running along a line approximately following the main Bristol to Taunton railway line starting about quarter of a mile east of Taunton station.

"Part of this area of fog may have extended to the perimeters of Taunton RFC and, in all probability, to a height of 25ft or more to reach the motorway.

"Varying plumes of smoke from the firework display, particularly that caught below the inversion area, may have mixed with the fog and therefore I cannot rule out the possibility that they drifted under the inversion to the motorway and may have added to the intensity of the obscuration."

During the eight-day hearing, Mr Counsell said he did not consider smoke to be a danger to motorists and insisted it did not drift on to the M5 from his display.

The lorry driver said the build-up of smoke during the display did not give him any concern and there was "no reason whatsoever" to consider smoke as a potential hazard.

"It is not something anybody has been trained in before or told to look for," he said.

"There has never been any mention of it (in literature or training courses)."

But some of the people at the display described seeing a "wall" of smoke drift across the pitch towards spectators.

Others said they thought the display was too large and in the wrong place because of its proximity to the motorway.

The inquest also heard that a risk assessment Mr Counsell prepared was lost by one of the rugby club's management committee.

Mr Counsell, an experienced operator, agreed with the question that if there was a fault that night, it was with the rules, regulations and guidance.

The inquest heard evidence from expert witnesses that none of the published material about firework safety warned of the dangers of smoke to road safety.

Mr Rose said he had considered all the published literature for firework display organisers and "none contained a warning against using fireworks in foggy conditions".

"Mr Counsell stated under oath that a risk assessment had been prepared and handed to Colin Bentley but had subsequently lost," the coroner said.

"I had the impression that he was a competent operator holding a Level 1 certificate from the British Pyrotechnics Association and had been putting on firework displays for some 20 years.

Before adjourning the inquest, Mr Rose praised all the members of the emergency services and passing motorists who went to the aid of the injured.

Tonia White, the daughter of Mr and Mrs Adams, said she was pleased with Mr Rose's conclusions.

"I think the coroner's recommendations are a big step forward," she said.

"That's we were looking for - moving on and making sure this doesn't happen to anybody else.

"We want to see the licensing of firework displays, the literature changed to include the visibility problems that have arisen.

"I think the coroner has gone as far as he could go and I think we have had our questions answered.

"As the coroner said he cannot rule out the fact the smoke didn't play a part and that's quite important to us.

"The coroner has summed it all up for us in a lot of ways."

Mrs White, who lives in Taunton, said it was difficult with coping with the loss of her parents.

"Every day is still a mountain to climb and a struggle to get through," she said.

"You feel like you've lost a part of your identity with both my mum and dad - and that's not easy.

Mrs White's sister, Elaine Adams, echoed those sentiments.

"I think the outcome today has been very, very positive and from my point of view I would like to see more legislation around fireworks, more so around operators and the way they are allowed to go and set up businesses," she said.

"They certainly need more training and they need people who are accountable. I wouldn't say I am 100% confident it will happen but I certainly hope that is the way it will go.

"I think we will keep following it."

Comments (7)

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5:38pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Robodad says...

Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.
Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane. Robodad
  • Score: -2

7:07pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Jonnytrouble says...

Robodad wrote:
Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.
Quote
'' Varying plumes of smoke from the firework display, particularly that caught below the inversion area, may have mixed with the fog and therefore I cannot rule out the possibility that they drifted under the inversion to the motorway and may have added to the intensity of the obscuration."
So you were driving there that night ?
Have you travelled on that M5 past the Rugby club ?
If not then go there and see how close that firework display was and I will tell you this, I bet there hasn't been another one since that dreadful accident !
So are you saying all those vehicles were driving too close that night ?
Maybe the lorry drivers were ? just watch the way some of the idiots drive, as for me my rule is stay well, well back from vehicle in front and esp ' the BIG BOY'S , but I do get the idiot who jumps in front of me and I end up with the gap closed !
[quote][p][bold]Robodad[/bold] wrote: Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.[/p][/quote]Quote '' Varying plumes of smoke from the firework display, particularly that caught below the inversion area, may have mixed with the fog and therefore I cannot rule out the possibility that they drifted under the inversion to the motorway and may have added to the intensity of the obscuration." So you were driving there that night ? Have you travelled on that M5 past the Rugby club ? If not then go there and see how close that firework display was and I will tell you this, I bet there hasn't been another one since that dreadful accident ! So are you saying all those vehicles were driving too close that night ? Maybe the lorry drivers were ? just watch the way some of the idiots drive, as for me my rule is stay well, well back from vehicle in front and esp ' the BIG BOY'S , but I do get the idiot who jumps in front of me and I end up with the gap closed ! Jonnytrouble
  • Score: 4

9:33pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Limestonecowboy says...

Robodad wrote:
Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.
There's nowhere mentioned drivers were at fault what right do you have to blame those innocent motorists ' people driving too close' witness to the crash were you???
[quote][p][bold]Robodad[/bold] wrote: Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.[/p][/quote]There's nowhere mentioned drivers were at fault what right do you have to blame those innocent motorists ' people driving too close' witness to the crash were you??? Limestonecowboy
  • Score: 4

3:23am Fri 18 Apr 14

Mike0408 says...

Robodad wrote:
Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.
exactly what i thought from the very start.

like you say, if visibility is poor, reduce speed and keep further away from vehicles in front (drive at a safe enough speed to expect the unexpected).

it could very well be that someone was driving to close to someone else, the person in front slowed down due to poor visibility and the guy/woman behind wasn't paying attention and crashed in the ''fog'' which then caused others to collide with them.

To JonnyTrouble
i do drive past there on a regular basis and i was driving up that way on the day of this crash and i was stuck in teh traffic due to this accident, from what i remember it wasn't very foggy that night however i didnt go past the crash site (got off before). but if ALL drivers wasn't in so much of a rush and tailgating then this could have been avoided, but like i said it only takes that 1 driver to have the crash.

Judging by the photo there was a junction before the crash, if drivers didnt feel safe enough to drive threw the ''think fog'' then why did they simply not come off on the junction before the ''think fog''.

also WHY wasn't there ANY problem of the other side of the motorway??. i am just assuming people are saying it was like a ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug" so that the families would feel better, i havent been reading much about this accident, but did the emergency services say anything about what the weather was like that day and did they admit it was like ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug"??
[quote][p][bold]Robodad[/bold] wrote: Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.[/p][/quote]exactly what i thought from the very start. like you say, if visibility is poor, reduce speed and keep further away from vehicles in front (drive at a safe enough speed to expect the unexpected). it could very well be that someone was driving to close to someone else, the person in front slowed down due to poor visibility and the guy/woman behind wasn't paying attention and crashed in the ''fog'' which then caused others to collide with them. To JonnyTrouble i do drive past there on a regular basis and i was driving up that way on the day of this crash and i was stuck in teh traffic due to this accident, from what i remember it wasn't very foggy that night however i didnt go past the crash site (got off before). but if ALL drivers wasn't in so much of a rush and tailgating then this could have been avoided, but like i said it only takes that 1 driver to have the crash. Judging by the photo there was a junction before the crash, if drivers didnt feel safe enough to drive threw the ''think fog'' then why did they simply not come off on the junction before the ''think fog''. also WHY wasn't there ANY problem of the other side of the motorway??. i am just assuming people are saying it was like a ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug" so that the families would feel better, i havent been reading much about this accident, but did the emergency services say anything about what the weather was like that day and did they admit it was like ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug"?? Mike0408
  • Score: 1

1:57pm Fri 18 Apr 14

Jonnytrouble says...

Mike0408 wrote:
Robodad wrote:
Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.
exactly what i thought from the very start.

like you say, if visibility is poor, reduce speed and keep further away from vehicles in front (drive at a safe enough speed to expect the unexpected).

it could very well be that someone was driving to close to someone else, the person in front slowed down due to poor visibility and the guy/woman behind wasn't paying attention and crashed in the ''fog'' which then caused others to collide with them.

To JonnyTrouble
i do drive past there on a regular basis and i was driving up that way on the day of this crash and i was stuck in teh traffic due to this accident, from what i remember it wasn't very foggy that night however i didnt go past the crash site (got off before). but if ALL drivers wasn't in so much of a rush and tailgating then this could have been avoided, but like i said it only takes that 1 driver to have the crash.

Judging by the photo there was a junction before the crash, if drivers didnt feel safe enough to drive threw the ''think fog'' then why did they simply not come off on the junction before the ''think fog''.

also WHY wasn't there ANY problem of the other side of the motorway??. i am just assuming people are saying it was like a ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug" so that the families would feel better, i havent been reading much about this accident, but did the emergency services say anything about what the weather was like that day and did they admit it was like ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug"??
Quote
'' Varying plumes of smoke from the firework display, particularly that caught below the inversion area, may have mixed with the fog and therefore I cannot rule out the possibility that they drifted under the inversion to the motorway and may have added to the intensity of the obscuration."

Yes it makes one think why NOTHING happened the other side of the motorway and strange on side where fireworks display was and anyone with some common sense would NEVER have allowed it,i mean near a fast busy M5 ? bound to take peoples eyes off road too !
I wonder about ' WHO ' did allow it and WHOEVER it was, can they sleep at night ?
So who was to blame ?,never an answer as alway's ' just passing the buck ' the usual ' not me I didn't give the go ahead ' !
Just hope things will be learned from this terrible tragedy
[quote][p][bold]Mike0408[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Robodad[/bold] wrote: Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.[/p][/quote]exactly what i thought from the very start. like you say, if visibility is poor, reduce speed and keep further away from vehicles in front (drive at a safe enough speed to expect the unexpected). it could very well be that someone was driving to close to someone else, the person in front slowed down due to poor visibility and the guy/woman behind wasn't paying attention and crashed in the ''fog'' which then caused others to collide with them. To JonnyTrouble i do drive past there on a regular basis and i was driving up that way on the day of this crash and i was stuck in teh traffic due to this accident, from what i remember it wasn't very foggy that night however i didnt go past the crash site (got off before). but if ALL drivers wasn't in so much of a rush and tailgating then this could have been avoided, but like i said it only takes that 1 driver to have the crash. Judging by the photo there was a junction before the crash, if drivers didnt feel safe enough to drive threw the ''think fog'' then why did they simply not come off on the junction before the ''think fog''. also WHY wasn't there ANY problem of the other side of the motorway??. i am just assuming people are saying it was like a ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug" so that the families would feel better, i havent been reading much about this accident, but did the emergency services say anything about what the weather was like that day and did they admit it was like ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug"??[/p][/quote]Quote '' Varying plumes of smoke from the firework display, particularly that caught below the inversion area, may have mixed with the fog and therefore I cannot rule out the possibility that they drifted under the inversion to the motorway and may have added to the intensity of the obscuration." Yes it makes one think why NOTHING happened the other side of the motorway and strange on side where fireworks display was and anyone with some common sense would NEVER have allowed it,i mean near a fast busy M5 ? bound to take peoples eyes off road too ! I wonder about ' WHO ' did allow it and WHOEVER it was, can they sleep at night ? So who was to blame ?,never an answer as alway's ' just passing the buck ' the usual ' not me I didn't give the go ahead ' ! Just hope things will be learned from this terrible tragedy Jonnytrouble
  • Score: 1

5:21pm Fri 18 Apr 14

Limestonecowboy says...

Mike0408 wrote:
Robodad wrote: Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.
exactly what i thought from the very start. like you say, if visibility is poor, reduce speed and keep further away from vehicles in front (drive at a safe enough speed to expect the unexpected). it could very well be that someone was driving to close to someone else, the person in front slowed down due to poor visibility and the guy/woman behind wasn't paying attention and crashed in the ''fog'' which then caused others to collide with them. To JonnyTrouble i do drive past there on a regular basis and i was driving up that way on the day of this crash and i was stuck in teh traffic due to this accident, from what i remember it wasn't very foggy that night however i didnt go past the crash site (got off before). but if ALL drivers wasn't in so much of a rush and tailgating then this could have been avoided, but like i said it only takes that 1 driver to have the crash. Judging by the photo there was a junction before the crash, if drivers didnt feel safe enough to drive threw the ''think fog'' then why did they simply not come off on the junction before the ''think fog''. also WHY wasn't there ANY problem of the other side of the motorway??. i am just assuming people are saying it was like a ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug" so that the families would feel better, i havent been reading much about this accident, but did the emergency services say anything about what the weather was like that day and did they admit it was like ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug"??
What a moron you are read the full report in fact legislation will be considered for location of firework displays near major roads as the coroner said that he could not rule out smoke mixing with thick fog - just go a meet the victims families & explain your theories what a complete obnoxious person you are making such remarks.
[quote][p][bold]Mike0408[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Robodad[/bold] wrote: Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.[/p][/quote]exactly what i thought from the very start. like you say, if visibility is poor, reduce speed and keep further away from vehicles in front (drive at a safe enough speed to expect the unexpected). it could very well be that someone was driving to close to someone else, the person in front slowed down due to poor visibility and the guy/woman behind wasn't paying attention and crashed in the ''fog'' which then caused others to collide with them. To JonnyTrouble i do drive past there on a regular basis and i was driving up that way on the day of this crash and i was stuck in teh traffic due to this accident, from what i remember it wasn't very foggy that night however i didnt go past the crash site (got off before). but if ALL drivers wasn't in so much of a rush and tailgating then this could have been avoided, but like i said it only takes that 1 driver to have the crash. Judging by the photo there was a junction before the crash, if drivers didnt feel safe enough to drive threw the ''think fog'' then why did they simply not come off on the junction before the ''think fog''. also WHY wasn't there ANY problem of the other side of the motorway??. i am just assuming people are saying it was like a ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug" so that the families would feel better, i havent been reading much about this accident, but did the emergency services say anything about what the weather was like that day and did they admit it was like ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug"??[/p][/quote]What a moron you are read the full report in fact legislation will be considered for location of firework displays near major roads as the coroner said that he could not rule out smoke mixing with thick fog - just go a meet the victims families & explain your theories what a complete obnoxious person you are making such remarks. Limestonecowboy
  • Score: 1

6:31pm Fri 18 Apr 14

Mike0408 says...

Limestonecowboy wrote:
Mike0408 wrote:
Robodad wrote: Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.
exactly what i thought from the very start. like you say, if visibility is poor, reduce speed and keep further away from vehicles in front (drive at a safe enough speed to expect the unexpected). it could very well be that someone was driving to close to someone else, the person in front slowed down due to poor visibility and the guy/woman behind wasn't paying attention and crashed in the ''fog'' which then caused others to collide with them. To JonnyTrouble i do drive past there on a regular basis and i was driving up that way on the day of this crash and i was stuck in teh traffic due to this accident, from what i remember it wasn't very foggy that night however i didnt go past the crash site (got off before). but if ALL drivers wasn't in so much of a rush and tailgating then this could have been avoided, but like i said it only takes that 1 driver to have the crash. Judging by the photo there was a junction before the crash, if drivers didnt feel safe enough to drive threw the ''think fog'' then why did they simply not come off on the junction before the ''think fog''. also WHY wasn't there ANY problem of the other side of the motorway??. i am just assuming people are saying it was like a ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug" so that the families would feel better, i havent been reading much about this accident, but did the emergency services say anything about what the weather was like that day and did they admit it was like ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug"??
What a moron you are read the full report in fact legislation will be considered for location of firework displays near major roads as the coroner said that he could not rule out smoke mixing with thick fog - just go a meet the victims families & explain your theories what a complete obnoxious person you are making such remarks.
drivers should know better than to take their eyes of the road, especially on a motorway, if this was in fact the case, then the drivers are at fault for driving without due care and attention. also if the smoke did mix with the fog, why would it not be on the other side?? surely it would have covered the whole of the motorway and not just 1 side??
and as for you saying '' anyone with some common sense would NEVER have allowed it'' as it has been proven he did not break any laws, so teh people you say have no common sense are those who wrote the health laws on this (not the people who organised this or the firework display guy).
[quote][p][bold]Limestonecowboy[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Mike0408[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Robodad[/bold] wrote: Sense at last. It is obvious that it was not smoke that caused the crash but people driving too close to the vehicle in front and too fast for the conditions. If you suddenly go into poor visibility on a motorway you know there isnt going to be a sharp bend coming up so just ease off the speed, watch the cats eyes and stay in your lane.[/p][/quote]exactly what i thought from the very start. like you say, if visibility is poor, reduce speed and keep further away from vehicles in front (drive at a safe enough speed to expect the unexpected). it could very well be that someone was driving to close to someone else, the person in front slowed down due to poor visibility and the guy/woman behind wasn't paying attention and crashed in the ''fog'' which then caused others to collide with them. To JonnyTrouble i do drive past there on a regular basis and i was driving up that way on the day of this crash and i was stuck in teh traffic due to this accident, from what i remember it wasn't very foggy that night however i didnt go past the crash site (got off before). but if ALL drivers wasn't in so much of a rush and tailgating then this could have been avoided, but like i said it only takes that 1 driver to have the crash. Judging by the photo there was a junction before the crash, if drivers didnt feel safe enough to drive threw the ''think fog'' then why did they simply not come off on the junction before the ''think fog''. also WHY wasn't there ANY problem of the other side of the motorway??. i am just assuming people are saying it was like a ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug" so that the families would feel better, i havent been reading much about this accident, but did the emergency services say anything about what the weather was like that day and did they admit it was like ''"white curtain", "emulsion" or "custard being poured from a jug"??[/p][/quote]What a moron you are read the full report in fact legislation will be considered for location of firework displays near major roads as the coroner said that he could not rule out smoke mixing with thick fog - just go a meet the victims families & explain your theories what a complete obnoxious person you are making such remarks.[/p][/quote]drivers should know better than to take their eyes of the road, especially on a motorway, if this was in fact the case, then the drivers are at fault for driving without due care and attention. also if the smoke did mix with the fog, why would it not be on the other side?? surely it would have covered the whole of the motorway and not just 1 side?? and as for you saying '' anyone with some common sense would NEVER have allowed it'' as it has been proven he did not break any laws, so teh people you say have no common sense are those who wrote the health laws on this (not the people who organised this or the firework display guy). Mike0408
  • Score: -1

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