LiveM5 crash inquest: Day eight from Shire Hall, Taunton

First published in Somerset
Last updated

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Summary

  • Seven people died on night of November 4, 2011.
  • Pile-up on M5 northbound left 51 injured.
  • Legal proceedings against fireworks boss thrown out by judge in December.
  • Coroner resumed inquest on Monday, March 31 and could last two weeks.

12:33pm

GEOFFREY Counsell, who organised a fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club beside the M5 on the evening of the pile-up, spoke publically of the event for the first time.

HGV driver Mr Counsell, of Thornfalcon, told the inquest he arrived at the site at 3.30pm on the day of the show, when he noticed a “very gentle breeze”, although it was “very miserable, with rain coming and going” and fog “there one minute and clear the next”.

Mr Counsell, who has over 20 years’ experience of letting off fireworks and was a member of the British Pyrotechnics Association in 2011, started the £3,000 aerial display of 40kg of fireworks at 8pm.

He detonated the fireworks by remote control from around 60 metres away and he, his fiancée and her daughter were confident everything was in order.

“The only concern I had was that the smoke was going to hang around or drift towards the audience,” said Mr Counsell, who said the smoke was not moving towards the motorway.

After the 15 minute show, Mr Counsell told the court he did not notice any unusual build up of smoke, saying everything seemed “perfectly normal”.

He said he started clearing up debris from the display and added: “When I sat in the back of my trailer, that’s when we heard the first explosion (from the M5 crash).

“We had no idea what it was at the time.

"When we were aware what had happened, we could see lights that were hazy and could hear the bangs.”

Mr Counsell left the club at 9pm or 9.30pm, but did not return the next morning to finish clearing up because he felt “the best thing was to keep away” and he was also busy preparing another fireworks display at another venue.

Mr Counsell, who had staged a previous display at the rugby club in 2009, said he had never experienced or heard of problems of smoke and visibility causing a hazard.

He told the court he carried out a risk assessment weeks before the display, although his report has been mislaid by a member of the club’s committee.

12:18pm

THE hearing at Shire Hall is expected to conclude today (Wednesday).

West Somerset Coroner Michael Rose will give his conclusion at a hearing in the Old Municipal Buildings, Taunton, next Thursday.

12:07pm

A MEDIC described how he was about eight cars behind the last vehicle involved in the tragic crash.

Dr Nikolas Jagodzinski had driven through "the thickest fog I'd ever encountered" as he drove up from Cornwall on his way to the Lake District.

He stopped his car and got out.

"Quite a few people had escaped from their cars and had climbed down the bank of the motorway calling for help," said Dr Jagodzinski.

"I jumped down and climbed over the motorway to help the people down there."

Another doctor driving south also stopped to help, while a volunteer GP co-ordinated the treatment operation.

8:43am

GEOFFREY Counsell, who organised a fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club, beside the motorway crash scene, could give evidence to the hearing today.

It would be the first time he has spoken publically about the events at the club.

The fireworks display finished at 8.15pm, six minutes before the first crash on the M5.

A trial at which Mr Counsell was accused of breaching health and safety rules collapsed before Christmas, when the judge ordered the jury to return a not guilty verdict.

Chard & Ilminster News: Manslaughter charges have been dropped against Geoffrey Counsell

For updates from day seven, click here.

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