10 feared dead as firemen bid to cut victims free of burning wreckage following 27-vehicle smash on M5
Cars and lorries engulfed in flames following crash near Taunton, Somerset
Police confirm several deaths as several people suffer ‘life-changing’ injuries
Fire officer: It is ‘the worst road traffic collision anyone can remember’
Dramatic scenes as motorists try to pull others free from burning wreckage
Too early to speculate on cause, but weather could be a significant factor
Motorway expected to be closed for 24 hours along 18-mile stretch
Emergency number for concerned relatives: 0800 092 0410
By John Hutchinson and Richard Hartley-parkinson
Last updated at 9:29 AM on 5th November 2011
At least 10 people were feared dead today after a multiple-vehicle crash involving at least 21 cars and six lorries on the M5.
Sixteen casualties taken to hospital are being treated for ‘a range of trauma injuries’ after being cut free from the wreckage as fires burned in nearby cars.
Television footage showed motorists trying to pry open vehicle doors in a bid to rescue those trapped in last night’s carnage which happened at 8.30pm in Taunton, Somerset.
Scroll down for footage
Carnage: Police and fireman at the crash scene early today on the M5 motorway close to Taunton in Somerset
Pile-up: Crashed lorries and cars on the M5 after the accident involving 27 vehicles in which many victims died
Wreckage: Firemen inspect the damage after the horror accident. Forty injured were taken to hospital
Fifteen appliances raced to the scene and immediately closed off the motorway in both directions. It is expected to be shut for the next 24 hours while emergency workers recover bodies and clear the debris from the accident.
Firefighters used hydraulic equipment to pull injured from the wrecked vehicles. In total, 43 people were taken to hospital some with ‘life changing injuries’.
The devastating road accident is believed to be one of the worst in the UK for 20 years.
Motorist Paul O’Connor described the aftermath of the pile-up as ‘disturbing’. ‘I heard a loud bang and saw the flames,’ he told Sky News.
Inspection: Police and emergency workers at the scene early today close to the twisted central barrier
Ablaze: Cars and lorries are scene on fire last night as emergency services try to free motorists from the pile-up
Several people are feared dead as fires break out at a multiple-vehicle car crash on the M5
‘I thought it was something to do with bonfire night and then realised it was something quite bad. It was quite horrific and I have never seen anything like that – I could see people lying on the side of the road. It was quite disturbing really.’
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Mr O’Connor, who was travelling to Plymouth when the incident happened, added: ‘I saw two people lying down and there were quite a lot of people around them – the emergency services were doing what they could, I don’t know if they were OK.
‘I heard at one point firefighters telling people trapped inside a vehicle not to panic and they were trying to do what they could to get them out.’
The motorist said he had to pull off the motorway at a service station after witnessing the carnage.
‘I think there were other people who had seen it and done the same.’
A man can be seen close to the wreckage as desperate attempts are made to free people trapped in vehicles
One fire fighter said: ‘This is the worst road traffic collision anyone can remember… so many vehicles involved.”
Asked what he thought may have caused the incident he added: ‘When I got there there was no fog but five minutes up the road there was really heavy fog so I think that could be the cause of it.’
Andrea Day from Trafficlink said it was the worst accident she has seen in the 10 years she had been working for the traffic information provider.
The crash happened at junction 25 of the M5 motorway near, Taunton
‘I have never come across an accident of this kind – not in terms of the volume of vehicles involved,’ she told Sky.
Paul Slaven of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service told the BBC: ‘This is the worst road traffic collision anyone can remember… so many vehicles involved.’
Asked why the vehicle fires had been so fierce he said: ‘I have not had a report of any toxic or chemical material being carried by any vehicles it is just a case of the number of vehicles involved and the type of vehicle.
‘At least two of the vehicles on fire were articulated lorries and there would be a lot of fuel on them.’
He added that it was too early to speculate what had caused the pile-up, but said there had been a number of contributing factors which made road conditions dangerous.
‘The weather was not particularly good at the time and it would have been particularly busy at the time because of the Bridgwater Carnival,’ he said.
Mr Slaven said the police were in the process of setting up a dedicated telephone line for worried relatives of people who may have been in the area at the time of the incident.
Edmund King, president of the AA, said the scale of the crash was similar to one on the M4 near Hungerford in Berkshire in 1991. In foggy conditions 10 died and 25 were injured in a 51 vehicle smash.
Speaking to the BBC Simon Bruford, 38, from Willerton in Somerset, who was driving southbound, said: ‘I could see the flames from quite a way back.
‘I spent 18 years in the Somerset fire service and have seen a lot nasty things, but that was horrific,’ he added.
The fire rages out of control amid scenes of utter carnage after the crash in heavy fog
Flames leap above the scene of carnage on the M5 at junction 25 in Somerset
Local resident Bev Davis heard the devastating accident from her home close to the motorway. ‘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 told the BBC.
‘There were explosions of what I think must have been tyres – it was although the fireworks (from the nearby Bridgwater Carnival) were starting again but we knew they had finished.
‘There must have been 200 metres-worth of fire – plumes of smoke were going up and everything was red.’
Today the Highways Agency urged all motorists to avoid the area, with the northbound and southbound sections between junctions 25 and 24 closed off.
The fire appliances came from Taunton, Glastonbury, Bridgwater, Wiveliscombe, Wellington, Burnham on Sea, and Yeovil with additional appliances from Chard, Street, Cullompton and Tiverton,’ said Avon and Somerset Police.
Jeremy Browne, MP for Taunton Deane paid tribute to the ‘bravery’ of the emergency workers who dealt with the ‘horrendous accident’.
He said: ‘There has not been a crash on this scale for many years and the implications of it will be life-changing for many people.’
Jo Cubbon, chief executive of Musgrove Hospital where the injured are being treated, said: ‘Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy.’
Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said: ‘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.’
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