BY ED WEST
MASSES have been celebrated across Somerset for the victims of last Friday’s M5 motorway disaster in which seven people were killed and 51 injured.
Thirty-four vehicles, including six articulated lorries, were involved in the accident on the northbound carriage of the motorway, which occurred after heavy fog rapidly descended on the area, less than five miles from Taunton.
A 200ft stretch of motorway was damaged by intense fire after at least one of the lorries erupted into a fireball, with flames rising 20 feet into the air. One witness described the scene as being “like something from Afghanistan”.
Fifteen fire vehicles were called to the scene of what was the worst crash on a British road for almost 20 years, and it was initially feared that the death toll would rise far higher.
In the aftermath of the fire Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, who often uses the road, said: “My thoughts and prayers are with the people involved with the horrific tragedy on the M5.
“In particular I remember the people who have died together with those who have been injured as well as their families and friends.
“I am also praying for those in our emergency services whose bravery and dedication is appreciated by us all. It must be a shocking time for them as well.” Canon John Cunningham, parish Priest of St George and St Teresa of Lisieux in Taunton, said: “The Catholic community here in Taunton is devastated following the horrific accident on the M5 last night.
“It is the worst accident anyone can remember. Our prayerful sympathy is with the families of all who lost their lives and with those injured in this terrible accident. We will be praying at all Masses this weekend for those involved in any way.
“We give thanks to God for the bravery of all the emergency services including ambulance staff, fire personnel and police.” He added: “The Catholic community was actively involved through the chaplaincy at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton and were there to give support, if needed, to people who were in jured and their families.” The parish priest of nearby St John Fisher, Wellington and St Richard of Chichester, Wiveliscombe, Fr Vincent Curtis, provided chaplaincy support in Taunton’s Musgrove Park Hospital on Friday night.
Fr Curtis remained in the hospital for the entire evening, in the family room of the hospital where people’s injuries, many of them very serious, were being treated. Fr Curtis said: “I was called in case I needed to anoint anyone. Basically I was waiting on call.” Fr Curtis, who said that all the local Masses Catholics had prayed for those who had lost their lives, said: “It must have come as a terrible shock. I must admit that this did affect me. I was really shook up.” The victims were named as father-of-five Terry Brice, 55, of Bristol, one of two lorry drivers working for the owners of the Cornish pasty brand Ginsters, and his colleague, Kye Thomas, 38, from Gunnislake, Cornwall. He was a father of four who served in the King’s Royal Hussars before becoming a lorry driver.
Grandparents Tony and Pamela Adams, 73, and 70, were on their home to Newport after visiting grandchildren.
Their daughter Dale, one of their seven children, had been killed in a motorcycle crash four years ago.
The pair were devoted churchgoers and Canon Andrew Willie of St Mark’s Anglican church broke the news of their deaths on Sunday, saying the couple were “childhood sweethearts” who were married for more than 50 years.
Mr Adams served as a people’s warden and would occasionally conduct church services and was due to do so on Sunday morning. Canon Willie took the service using hymns chosen by Mr Adams.
Michael Barton, 67, and his daughter Maggie, 23, were both killed on their way home to Berkshire. Mr Barton’s other daughter, Emma, 19, and her boyfriend, Chris Burbull, 23, were treated in hospital.
The seventh fatality was fatherof-two Malcolm Beacham, from Woolavington in Somerset.
The last comparable motorway disaster in Britain was in 1991, when 10 people were killed and 25 injured in a 51-car pile-up on the M4 near Hungerford, Berskhire.