Scott Ellis investigates the events that led up to the fatal crash on the M5 in Somerset and Mark Horton visits the Gloucestershire market town that inspired the modern Olympics.
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Tonight we are just outside Taunton, reflecting on the night seven
people lost their lives on this motorway.
As the police investigation continues, we will be looking at
the events leading up to the crash and we will hear amazing new
testimony about the bravery of some of the people caught up in the
incident. When I stepped out of the car it was like stepping on to a
movie set. You just don't think it's real for a minute.
Also in the programme tonight: Never mind Greece, it turns out it
was the Cotswolds that inspired the modern Olympics. That's the
cruelest sport I think I have ever seen. I am Alastair Mackey and this
is Inside Out West. First tonight, the M5 crash. Seven
people dead and more than 50 injured. Ten days on, still no firm
conclusions about what may have caused the pile-up. Travelling on
the M5, getting up to speed and ahead of us we noticed a white wall
and I turned to Dan and said wow, that's the thickest fog I have ever
seen. The lorries hit cars in front of us. We could hear bang, bang,
bang from behind, as well. It was hell. Just the worst noise running
through your head, just these screams of people and not knowing
what to do first. The next thing was as if somebody had thrown a
black blanket over the windscreen. It was jet black. It was a night no
no one involved will ever forget. Now Inside Out can reveal no fog
warnings were displayed on electronic signs at the time of the
accident, despite forecasts and reports of poor visibility. The BBC
had warned of fog. With the added smoke from bonfires that will be a
perfect recipe for mist and fog... So had the Highways Agency, at
4.00pm its website was sent information from The Met Office
forecasting fog and mist. A forecast which proved accurate.
There were small patches of fog. There was water on the ground. It
wasn't raining heavily, there was a bit of drizzle coming down. Despite
this, no warnings were displayed on the M5 itself. We asked the
Highways Agency, which controls the electronic boards, why? It said it
had received no reports of adverse weather on any of its roads and it
said its control centre had been given advice by The Met Office that
did not highlight fog as a potential hazard at the time of the
crash. At around 8.15pm that evening a fireworks display at
Taunton Rugby Club ended, a police investigation is ongoing into
whether smoke from that played any part in the accident. Whatever the
cause, for Ciara and Roger there was no warning of what was to come
as they joined the motorway at junction 25. We pulled on to the M5
and were getting up to speed behind the Iceland truck in the middle
middle lane when we rolled into a wall of very sudden, very, very
thick, what appeared to be fog. was like somebody had thrown a hood
over the windscreen of the car, you could not see a thing. Almost as
soon as that happened I could see the truck again but it was
stationary. Closing quite fast from about 80 metres, and having to
brake very sharply. I literally stood on the brakes. I am thinking
we are not going to stop. But we do, we stop, from my memory, with about
maybe ten feet to spare. The lorries hit cars in front of us and
we could hear bang, bang, bang from behind, as well. It was rhythmical
almost, thump, thump, like a beat. I said we're going to get hit.
Based on post-crash pictures, we have tried to indicate what
happened in the aftermath of the accident. The vehicles represented
may not be exactly where they ended up, the Nenos were in the first
phase of the collision and Ciara was one of the first to dial 999.
said this isn't just a small crash, there's many, many crashes and I
can see fire. Then came the second phase of the crash, a lorry jack-
knifed behind them, protecting the couple from impact. After probably
90 seconds, I said I am not sitting here any longer, I have to go out
and see what I can do. In fact, that's when I stepped out of the
car, it was like stepping on to a movie set. You just don't think
it's real for a minute. Just mangled bits of metal everywhere. I
can hear the music from the rugby club and I just keep thinking God,
they've no idea what's going on up here. Roger saw two men trapped in
the car directly in front of him. He borrowed a tyre lever from a
truck driver. I ran back, told the guy in the seat to turn away and
smashed the window and it smashed first time. He reached out and I
pulled him out. The chap on the other side was very dazed. He was
in a slightly worse way. We said move over, come on, we will get you
out. We couldn't open his door, he was against the barrier. And he
said why, I am OK, kind of thing. I said your engine's gone, your car's
smoking, you might go up in flames. You need to get out. He shifted
over and we pulled him out. Hamill, his girlfriend Catherine
and his dad, had pulled up behind the jack-knifed lorry. They too
were remarkably lucky not to be hit. I remember sat there and Thomas was
like we're going to get hit, brace yourselves and we just waited and
heard and saw to the left cars just crashing in. And someone shouted
please take my baby, take my baby. My husband's trapped in the car. I
need to try and get him out. I did 999 standing at the central
reservation as more cars were crashing into the back of us and I
remember the 999 nine call call going how many cars? In this third
third phase of the crash, Matt and Michelle and their son and three
dogs ended up wedged on the hard shoulder between a lorry and crash
barrier. We got out of the van and straightaway I could see flames in
front, not coming from us and I don't think the car in front, but
seemed about, I don't know, ten feet away, big flames. Fire,
essentially there was fire. I can remember before I actually
descended the embankment looking to my left the lorry was well alight.
Looking to the right and the road surface was on fire, there had
obviously been a fuel spill. last image of looking at the van I
think was actually from the bottom of the embankment and looking up.
The cab of the van, it had flames in it. On the other side of the the
blazing lorry Roger Neno followed a young woman's cries for help.
car was pinned under the jack- knifed lorry. I am thinking that
fire is going to spread underneath this lorry and it won't take very
long the way it's burning. I jumped over the front - the front door was
slightly ajar at the top. I put the lever in and tried to open it, tpwu
wouldn't move. I told her to move back and swung the iron at the
window and I think on the fourth attempt it broke. So I went around
the side, took most of the glass out, shy lean -- she leaned out and
I pulled her out. I am trying to keep her calm, not panic, so not to
panic her. But I am thinking, I am looking down at my coat and it's
just raining and I am thinking oh, drizzle is all we need. But there's
this really strong smell of fuel and there's fuel all over the floor.
As I was doing this I saw the lady that was... The lady that was
pinned by her legs under the back wheel of that car underneath the
lorry. She was screaming "help me, get me out", obviously fearful she
was going to lie there and burn, as well. With no chance of releasing
her, Roger ran for help, returning with an offduty doctor and one of
the firecrews. Coy see Roger -- -. I could see Roger going towards the
car and there's a huge fireball behind. It just exploded and I just
screamed at him, get out, get out. Because I thought everything was
going to go up. Despite the fireball, the woman was saved.
Roger and Ciara spent hours at the scene before heading home. The time
between the Nenos stopping and the first emergency services arriving
took about the time it's taken you to watch this film. 51 people were
injured in the crash, seven died. The The sights and sounds of that
night will live with the people involved for the rest of their
lives. I am sitting here talking about
that and those people who have lost family members, there's people who
have been permanently injured and their lives are changed forever.
You know, I don't even have a scratch. It just doesn't make any
sense. The police investigation into the
crash is continuing. But one major line of inquiry is looking at
whether smoke from a firework display held right here may have
been a contributing factor. Scott Ellis has been looking at whether
tighter regulation is needed to help prevent smoke from firework
displays drifting into roads. It was billed as a dazzling night
of family fun but within 48 hours this event was at the centre of a
police criminal investigation. do believe that whilst there was
fog and it was difficult conditions in the area, that actually from
witness evidence that there was very significant smoke across the
carriageway, that in effect, caused a bank, similar to a fog bank which
was very distracting and difficult to drive through. Ten days on, the
question remains unanswered. Did a fireworks display at Taunton Rugby
Club cause or contribute to Britain's worst motorway crash for
20 years? We wanted to talk to experts from the fireworks industry
and those caught up in the tragedy. We found conflicting eyewitness
accounts. I can't believe you can have a
fireworks display so close to a motorway. It was extremely foggy.
So, you couldn't have - wouldn't be able to tell if there was smoke.
The firework displace was somewhere over there and I was over there and
the accident happened just almost parallel - almost behind where the
rugby post is. Bev Davies heard the fireworks go off, it took her and
her horses by surprise so she went I can't believe it and ran down to
the entrance to the Rugby Club as fast as they could, to ask them to
stop the display to get my horses While she was there, she asked
about the question of safety. I said you can't believe they were
having a firework display so near to a motorway. It was obviously so
bright and glaring I couldn't see how it could not be anything other
than a distraction to those driving past.
Fireworks causing a distraction and worries about the smoke. They are
all issues that have worried the public since the crash and they are
the ones that the police are examining. Tom Smith takes an
active interest. He is a pyrotech necks consex ant.
This is the Rugby Club. This is where the fireworks came from. This
is the motorway and this is where the accident site was.
Tom estimates that the fireworks were 200m from the carriageway.
Here are the lower level fireworks, then higher up in the picture, the
shells bursting over the top. Are they producing to you, what
looks like a lot of smoke? It is the amount of smoke that I pect to
see from a display of that size. There is obviously smoke, but it is
not excessive. We will see it drift down wind, but we didn't know where
that was. By 8.00pm, the local records
suggested that the wind was light and variable.
If it is south-westerly, the smoke produced from this area would
travel in this direction, that is parallel to the motorway, rather
than heading to the motorway. Regardless of direction, what would
happen to the smoke once it is travelling 200m? It is only a
finite amount of smoke. You can't have it both thick and then very
deep if it is over an extensive portion of the motorway, by
necessity it must have been dilute and relatively thin.
We decided to take a much closer look at the smoke again rated by
the fireworks. Alan Christie is helping us. He
detonates 16 tonnes of fireworks every year. He is the man who puts
the bang noose the Bristol Balloon Fiesta.
I have brought along a small selection of the typical things you
would find on a professional firework display a conical fountain,
a Roman candle battery. 56 shots. One views by 36 seconds.
Close up, this firework smoke appeared to be fine. It is almost
like an aerosol spray. The Met Office told us that smoke can cause
mist or fog to form in damp air. It can also thicken them up, but
that's not what Alan's found from his experience with fireworks.
Well the smoke generate fog or mist? No, not a chance, really. A
fog or mist is a natural element. You know, the weather conditions,
low pressure can help to hold the smoke on the floor, but it normally,
if the wind is not blowing far, you see it dissipate over four or five
minutes. Well, the fireworks are set up
there now, what we are going to do is to have a look at one large
firework going off, producing the smoke and heading across the road
that we are about to drive down to see how thick the smoke can be.
As you can see, we have the firework going off there. The smoke
is being blown across the road here. It is thick smoke and certainly it
doesn't help to have the head lamps on it, it is hard to see ahead.
This experiment on a farmer's track is far from scientific, in way does
it replicate the display of November the 4th. Firework smoke
can reduce visibility, but is that what happened on the night? Those
at the display offer differing upon -- opinions.
The display was big, supposedly the biggest in Somerset. There was a
lot of smoke created. The display ran for 15 minute, after, the smoke
stayed around for a long time. You could not see some parts of the
grass on the pitch. There was no smoke. Literally I walked over
after the fireworks, there was no smoke it was just fog. Thick fog.
It was not drifting at all. It was holding fast, from what I
understand. So I don't think it cleared quickly at all. The wind
was blowing towards me, so effectively from where I was stood,
by the Grandstand, that is away from the motorway.
Two opposing accounts, the police no doubt have many more point of
views. Alan doubts smoke was an issue, but
thinks that the display itself had the potential to distract drivers.
Would you have done it 2 or 300 to the M5? That is perhaps a little
too close. 6 or 600 metres away, that is not a problem, but not
within 100m. So, the chances are you may not
have run a show there? Yes. It is a bold admission, he would
not have run a display at the Taunton Rugby Club.
The report suggested that the fireworks finished ten minutes
before the crash muchment -- the police will have the final word.
The police have had00 words of line up for the inquiry. A camera may
hold vital clues. Smoke and fireworks are a significant part of
the investigation, the fawn Taunton is working closely with the Avon &
Somerset Police. I was going to an event in
Taunton... We joined the MP of the area Tessa Munt on the bridge where
many have come to mourn. She tue is an eyewitness, driving -- she too
is an eyewitness, driving south. The heat was so intense. Its with
burning hot. We were all those lanes away.
She was not aware of smoke or fireworks. On reflection feels
sympathy for the event organisers. If I were a part of the Taunton
Rugby Club I would feel awful. It must be so stressful for the people
involved in organising this. So often they are for charity. They
are events to raise money for good causes. I guess that must just feel
terrible. It will take many weeks for the
police to reach their conclusions but already the issue of fireworks
safety is under scrutiny once again. Obviously if the investigation
shows that smoke from the firework display was an issue, it is
something to look at very seriously and the BPA would incorporate
information about that in their training courses.
We don't want to react too quickly to what we don't really know about
yet. All of these investigations, like
yours, will no doubt add to the picture.
Scot Ellis on the events of November the 4th, a night that
changed the lives of so many. Next year, Gloucester holds
Paralympic Games, yes, really, the market town of Chipping Campden
holds the Games every year and claims to the birthplace of the
modern Olympic movement. Here is our history man.
It may sound a preposterous claim, that the modern Olympic movement
began here in Chipping Campden, but it is actually true! If you don't
believe me, then perhaps you will be convinced by this... When London
made its successful bid, the 2012 Games, they were only too keen to
acknowledge that Chipping Campden connection.
While most people in the West Country have never heard of them,
the Cotswold Olympicks have drawn television crews from around the
world to see the bizarre sports. Some of them, little changed, from
those that entertained crowds in Shakespeare's time.
I just had to have a go, it was time to get prepared.
I gather that state-of-the-art equipment is necessary for the
Modern Olympics athlete. Well, this is state-of-the-art from the
Cotswold Olympicks. Well, I may not have all of the
attributes for London 2012, but for Chipping Campden, 2011, I think I'm
fairly well equipped. It was on this hillside just north
of the town that organised sporting games were first held nearly 400
years ago. It was a Cambridge-educated lawyer,
Robert Dover whose vision it was to bring sporting ideals from the
original Greek application to the natural amphitheatre in rural
Gloucester. I declare my Games for 2011, open!
APPLAUSE The current organiser of the
Cotswold Olympicks is local stonemason Graham Greenall. So, who
was this mysterious Robert Dover who founded the Games? It is
difficult to know exactly who he was, but he was certain a lawyer.
He turned up in the area about 1611. He had relatives here. Somehow he
managed to take over the existing festival, which had been going on
for centuries and to turn it into this first Modern Olympics.
Contemporary reports say that Robert Dover was a jovial, kindly
character. His version of the Olympics didn't concentrate too
much on leet sporting achievement. His idea was to adapt the Olympics
ideal. Prizes were awarded to the winners, but the main focus
provided entertainment for the public.
This was favoured by the puritanists -- this was not
favourored by the purists of the day.
Today, it is still good cleanish, sporting fun! Where did they get
the buckets? That is cheating!? That is not cheating, that is
tactics. The rules are almost non- existent. I don't think we have
disqualified anybody! The fun and games went on more or lesstownously
for 200 years. By the mid-1800s they were drawing massive crowds
from across the Midlands, but to the Victorians everyone enjoying
themselves was too much! Concerns about the loose morals of the
crowds flocking to the games were voiced by the local vicar, a
certain Canon Borne. The church took over the land and the Games
were banned. So, this is it? Yes, this is the
grave of George Drinkwater Borne, he was the Rector here.
He was the villain of the games to close them down? Yes, but by all
accounts, the games had become lawless with a lot of people, maybe
30,000 people coming. It is referred to by a later writer as
the scum of the Earth, people coming from all points between
Birmingham and Oxford to spend the whole week here.
It must have been chaos, terrorising the neighbourhood?
think so. People did not feel safe in their houses. There was no
police of course, you have to think of the Notting Hill Carnival but
without the Police Force. So maybe he was a touch of a
villain at all? I don't think so. He was a young man, trying to do
his best on getting the best from all sides.
It is not like that now? Do you go yourself? I have not been so far.
I have never ventured out. If I want shin-kicking I go to a sin yod.
Bizarre as it may seem, shin kicking does appeal to some people.
It is certainly the high light of the Olympics of Chipping Campden.
This is one of the original games from Robert Dover's time. I am
worried, health and safety does not seem to have changed much since
Dover's day. Does it hurt a lot? A lot, yeah.
Especially when they miss. When they hit the sides by accident.
That can kill. Really?! Ready? Kick! This really
is not for the faint-hearted, is it? Kicking only, boys.
I think that I will whimp out! They are tiring, I think, look at them!
They are exhausted. That's the crudest sport I think I
have ever seen. Can I have a look at your wounds?
He doesn't draw blood, did he? Now for the final. Here the rules do
matter. Remember, kicking below the knee.
The judges are sticklers, the old English expression forum pyres
scrutinising fair play. Take your shoes off! That's a win.
Well, if anyone deserves Olympic gold, it is these guys. I have no
idea how they are still standing. What is it lick to be the world
champion? Really good! But, also really painful.
You are a natural! Don't say that, I'm not doing it again.
So, with the spirit of Robert Dover presiding, 2012 will see the 400th
anniversary of his Cotswold Olympicks. And perhaps London 2012
could take tips on how to stage a closing ceremony. Here everyone
gets to carry the Olympics flame and it is quite a spectacle.
This is England at its very best. If 2012 can repeat the experience
of tonight then it's going to be a roaring success! Well,
unfortunately, we have reached our closing ceremony. You can keep in
touch with what we are up to on both Facebook and Twitter.
Next week we are back on the Olympics trail. Meeting a beach
volley ball team based in a city without a beach. Also, asking why
the Government is cutting subsidies for solar power. We are
investigating a Somerset businessman, who promised his
Scott Ellis reports on the aftermath of the fatal crash on the M5 in Somerset.
Mark Horton visits a small market town in Gloucestershire that claims to be the true birthplace of the modern Olympic movement. Chipping Campden first held an Olimpick Games four hundred years ago with early spectators said to include William Shakespeare. Now, the event is held every year with local people competing in sports ranging from shin-kicking to sack-racing.