A nine-year-old boy was facing life as an orphan yesterday after a crash on the M25.

Donald Plaskett, the father of Karl Plaskett, died on Tuesday in the wreck of his Ford Sierra, which was stranded on the hard shoulder with a puncture. The car was hit by a 38-ton articulated lorry.

Mr Plaskett, whose wife died two years ago, and friends Ian Doggett, Ian Read and Peter Gore broke down after the group had enjoyed a night out at a London club. Two of the men were killed instantly; the third died after rescue workers fought for two hours to free him from the twisted wreckage. Only Mr Gore survived.

Mr Plaskett, a farmer who was in his 30s, had brought Karl up on his own after his wife died. Last night the youngster was being looked after by

friends near his home in West Woodhay, Berkshire, where Mr Doggett, 27, who was unemployed , had also lived as a lodger.

Mr Read, a scientist who was in his 50s, had been preparing to attend his son's wedding in New York. His ex-wife Sally flew to America yesterday to break the news to their son and their daughter Sarah, already in New York for the celebrations.

'The crash was a tragedy, but the personal circumstances of the men involved make it even more sad, said Inspector Kevin Fitzpatrick, who is investigating the accident, which happened near the Grand Union Canal at Iver, Buckinghamshire.

As relatives grieved for Mr Read, who lived in Donnington Square, Newbury, Berkshire, his friend Peter Gore, in his 30s, from York Road, Newbury, was detained in intensive care with severe leg and chest injuries.

Ms Loretta Campbell, 22, from Chelmsford, Essex, who was driving the lorry, was arrested by police on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. She was later released on bail.

The crash caused chaos on the motorway, with 15-mile traffic queues building up in both directions.