M5 crash: Reaction from witnesses
- 6 November 2011
- From the section Somerset
A major crash involving 34 vehicles on the M5 near Taunton in Somerset has left at least seven people dead and more than 50 injured, police have said.
Officers said the crash, which happened close to junction 25 northbound at about 20:30 GMT on Friday, led to "one massive fireball" at the scene.
There were reports of heavy rain and fog in the area at the time of the crash, which emergency services described as "the worst road traffic collision anyone can remember".
Witnesses and people who were near the scene of the crash have been telling the BBC what they saw.
Tom Hamill, of Wells, helped rescue a young child from a car after managing to stop his own vehicle.
He said: "I clambered out of the car and the first thing I heard was a mother of a small 18-month-old baby shouting 'take my baby, take my baby - my husband's trapped inside the car!'
"So I took the baby and carried it over the central reservation. It was really terrifying at that point.
"As I crossed over to the other side of the road a bit of a bumper, a piece of debris, flew over the top of our heads. Fortunately it didn't hit us but it was inches away.
"I'd slowed right down and had veered into the central reservation and I think that saved our lives - the fog lifted and I saw utter carnage.
"The thing that made me realise how bad it was, was you could hear the thud of cars hitting into lorries.
"One car overtook us going at about 60 or 70 miles an hour and just crashed straight into a lorry."
Coach driver Michael Wagner said he had "never seen anything like this".
He said: "There were lots of lorries on fire. There was a car underneath one of the lorries.
"It looked like two lorries had jack-knifed at the front. In all, there must have been eight or nine lorries and 15 cars behind them. There was smoke and flames everywhere."
Bev Davis, who lives close to the motorway, said she had been in a field looking after her horses, which had been startled by a nearby fireworks display, when she heard the crash.
"All we could hear was the sound of a horn and then the flames got so high so quickly and the noise was horrific," she said.
"There were explosions of what I think must have been tyres - it was as though the fireworks were starting again but we knew they had finished.
"From where we were standing we could only see what was directly in front of us because the flames and smoke were smothering everything.
"There must have been 200m-worth of fire - plumes of smoke were going up and everything was red."
Jaysen Sharpe, who had been at nearby Taunton Rugby Club which had been hosting a fireworks display at about the time of the crash, said: "I could see a number of explosions.
"Petrol tanks I believe were going up - black smoke going up. There were a number of heavy vehicles that were on fire in the accident.
"I believe it was due to the fog and roads were wet.
"It was a really foggy night. Headlights weren't making a difference at all."
Amanda George, a former police officer, told the BBC: "We heard this crash and the explosion, I believe it was probably a lorry that had burst into flames.
"There was probably 50 to 100ft of vehicles and from one end to the other you could see fire.
"Our children initially thought it was a bonfire, that's how large it was.
"Three or four people ran across the field who had taken into account what was going on.
"It was a massive, massive fire.
"I've attended road traffic accidents in the past and the magnitude of it will have an impact on people for a long time to come."
Motorist Tom Raeburn was driving behind the vehicles involved in the crash.
He said: "We sort of noticed all the brake lights coming on, came to a stop and saw the flames which all of a sudden came out.
"Everything was coming to a stop and I suppose our first reaction was that we wanted to get out and run really, sort of run as fast as we could towards the flames and the stuff piling up but there's nothing really we could do."
Local resident Becky Widdicombe said: "It is not a busy stretch of road at this time of year. It's very surprising, not what I would expect to see on a Friday night.
"It's not a nice scene at all. People are trying not to speculate because of the seriousness of the situation."
Gary Birch, the pastor at a nearby church, said: "It's an eerie feeling in the village next to the motorway today.
"Here in Creech St Michael, we usually hear the hum of the motorway, but nothing this morning.
"Last night I watched the fireworks at the rugby club, right next to the motorway where the incident took place.
"I hoped the masses of smoke heading across the M5 wouldn't affect it, but it seems it may have.
"It was not raining, but the roads were wet.
"It was foggy in places last evening."
Local resident Verity Smart said: "We live right down the road from where this occurred and it has deeply affected the immediate community. We have just got back from the area beside Sainsbury's car park in Taunton, Somerset which is parallel to much of the tragic pile up on the M5.
"You could very clearly hear the emergency services and see flashing lights. You could also hear all the chatter on the radio and it was very calm and professional, from what we heard."