Father and daughter killed in M5 crash were on way back from funeral

Thick clouds of smoke from nearby firework display being blamed for motorway pile-up

A father and daughter travelling together on the M5 were revealed yesterday to have been among the victims of the UK's worst road accident for 20 years.

Michael Barton and his daughter Margaret were named by friends who confirmed that a second daughter, Emma, was critically ill in a coma after being pulled from the wreckage.

Thick clouds of smoke over the motorway from a firework display has emerged as the most likely cause of the pile-up between junction 24 and 25 in Somerset that left seven people dead and more than 50 others hurt. Eight of the most severely injured were still in hospital yesterday.

Police have launched an investigation into the crash and ensuing fireball after witnesses reported that visibility on the motorway was hampered severely because of a bank of smoke that may have come from a display at Taunton Rugby Club. Fog was present over parts of the M5 on Friday night, but it is now believed smoke is the more significant factor, with one motorist describing it as being as "thick as emulsion".

None of the dead have yet been formally identified by police as most of the remains are thought to be too badly damaged by fire to be recognisable. Formal identification will rely on forensics methods such as matching dental records and taking DNA samples. Mr Barton and his daughters, along with Emma's boyfriend Christopher Burbull, were travelling along the motorway having attended a funeral earlier in the day. Mr Burbill was among the injured.

A neighbour living in the same street in Windsor as the Barton family said Maggie and Emma's mother had died several years previously and that the sisters were "very close". She described Maggie as "the loveliest person you could ever meet".

Pamela and Anthony Adams, a couple from Newport, Gwent, were also feared to be among the dead. They had visited their daughter, Tonia White, in Taunton and were on their way home.

Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, of Avon and Somerset Police, is heading the investigation into the accident and said yesterday afternoon: "Our main line of inquiry has now moved towards the event that was on the side of the carriageway.

"We do believe that while there was fog and it was difficult conditions in the area, that actually from witness evidence there was very significant smoke across the carriageway that in effect caused a bank similar to a fog bank, which was very distracting and very difficult to drive through. We will be doing everything we can to find out as quickly as we're able to what's behind that."

He added: "We believe from the witnesses and from what we're being told that it was smoke and not fog. The vehicles and people who were entering into the smoke bank have just described it as being impossible to drive through."

The carnage on the northbound carriageway and the grounds of the nearby Taunton Rugby Club, where the firework display took place, were inspected in detail by crime investigators.

The display is thought to have finished a few minutes before the crash at around 8.25pm, but smoke is thought to have lingered in thick clouds.

But there was confusion over the source of the smoke, as the company responsible for the display told Channel 4 that the smoke from its fireworks had drifted away from the motorway.

Colin Bentley, part of the rugby club's marketing team, told the Somerset County Gazette: "Everybody at the club is incredibly upset at the terrible loss of life in the tragedy on the M5 – no one could fail to be moved by it.

"My heart, soul and prayers go out to those affected. The club is supporting the police in their enquires. I don't believe the club has done anything improper. Checks and risk assessments were done."

Safety: road deaths

Road deaths are far lower than they were 50 years ago, when the number of cars on the streets of Britain was a fraction of today's figures.

In 2010, according to Department for Transport statistics, there was a 17 per cent reduction in fatalities from 2009 with 1,850 people being killed in road accidents, of which 118 were motorway fatalities. More than 22,000 people were seriously injured. Safety on the roads has made steady improvements since 1958 when with just 4.5 million cars compared to the 31 million driven today, there were 5,970 deaths.

The first motorway to open in the UK was a stretch of the M6 in 1958.

According to the Association of British Drivers, the UK's motorways have among the best safety records in Europe with two deaths for every billion kilometres driven, compared to 4.5 in Germany, 5.4 in France and 14.1 in Portugal.

Suggested Topics
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?