A40

57 years of M5 history including its biggest tragedies and moments

The South West’s biggest motorway has one of the richest histories in the country

If you live in the South West then you will more than likely at some point have travelled along the M5[1].

The motorway was opened in 1962 and completed 15 years later in 1977, and a lot has happened between then and now.

Bodies have been found, bridges have collapsed and the Willow Man was built, giving the South West’s biggest motorway one of the richest histories in the country.

READ MORE: Ghost hunt at Stroud pub uncovers ‘energy of King James and monk’[2]

Whether you’re 20 or 80, you’ll remember iconic parts of the motorway, from your favourite service station to the Willow Man.

But even though we may regularly travel up or down it, whether for work or leisure – how much do we really know about it?

Despite its plentiful history, if it came up in a pub quiz, not a lot would know much about it.

So we’ve put together an article that tells the story of the M5, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Through unearthed photos from the archives, you can take a trip down memory lane or take a deep look through history at the iconic stretch of road.

Where is the M5?

The M5 quite closely follows the route of the A38 road. The two deviate slightly around Bristol and the area south of Bristol from junctions 16 to the Sedgemoor services north of junction 22.

The A38 goes straight through the centre of Bristol and passes by Bristol Airport, while the M5 skirts both, with access to the airport from junctions 18, 19 or 22.

The A38 continues south into Devon from junction 31, near Exminster. Between junction 21 at Weston-super-Mare[3] and junction 22 at Burnham-on-Sea[4], the M5 passes by an isolated landmark hill called Brent Knoll.

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The Willow Man sculpture is visible from both carriageways, and acts as a landmark just to the south of junction 23.

Junction 15 of the M5 is a large four-level stack interchange, named the Almondsbury Interchange, where the M5 meets the busy M4.

The Avonmouth Bridge, between junctions 18 and 19, is often a bottleneck during heavy traffic periods, due mainly to lane drops at either ends of the bridge for the respective junctions, and the sharp angle in the centre of the bridge, which causes larger vehicles to slow considerably.

There are split-level carriageways where the M5 ascends the hillsides above the Gordano Valley, between Portishead at junction 19 and Clevedon[6] at junction 20.

Major history of the M5

Construction

The first 26 miles (42 km) of the M5 motorway was constructed as a dual two-lane motorway with Worcestershire County Council acting as engineer.

This section, from junction 4 at Lydiate Ash in the north to a trumpet junction with the M50 in the south opened in July 1962.

This original section of the M5, from junctions 4 to 8, was widened to provide six lanes in the early 1990s. During this work, the northbound Strensham services were rebuilt further away from a new junction.

Worcestershire County Council, the police and particularly the county surveyor of Worcestershire made repeated representations that a dual three-lane standard motorway was appropriate. The Ministry of Transport insisted that a dual two-lane motorway would be built at a cost of around £8 million.

The Motorways Archive also records that the carriageways were also built to a lower overall width of 88 feet (27 m) rather than 100 feet (30 m) to reduce the loss of agricultural land. When the decision became necessary to widen the Worcestershire section of M5, it cost £123 million.

The two miles (3.2 km) dual two-lane section between Junctions 16 and 17 built at Filton, near Bristol, was also opened in 1962, and was intended to replace the pre-war Filton bypass.

Gloucestershire County Council acted as engineer for this section, which was widened to a dual three-lane motorway in 1969.

IYA – Memory Lane Gloucestershire[7]

North of Junction 4 the M5 was constructed in sections, from 1967 to 1970, together with the Frankley services. Much of the northern section beyond Junction 3, from about Oldbury to the junction with the M6 motorway, was constructed as an elevated dual three-lane motorway over Birmingham Canal (Old Main Line), Birmingham Canal (New Main Line), and Titford Pool using concrete pillars.

The M5 was also extended southwards, in sections, from 1967 to 1977, through Gloucestershire and Somerset, to Exeter in Devon as a dual three-lane motorway, together with the Strensham services.

The short section between Junctions 27 and 29 was built between 1967 and 1969, by Devon County Council, as the A38 Cullompton Bypass, with the intention that it should become part of the M5. The termini for this section have since been removed, although part of the southern terminal roundabout is now used as an emergency access. The section was developed to motorway standards, and incorporated into the M5 in 1975.

Operational history

Junction 1 surrounds a surviving gatehouse from the former Sandwell Hall.

The section from Junctions 16 and 18 was illuminated in about 1973 as part or a wider policy announced by UK Minister for Transport Industries in 1972 to illuminate the 86 miles (138 km) of UK motorway particularly prone to fog.

In the late 1980s Junction 4a was built as part of the M42 motorway construction project. The route of the M42 was decided as early as 1972 but, owing to planning delays, the short section of the M42 north of Bromsgrove did not open until December 1989.

As the M5 traffic increased in the 1980s Junction 11, the main Gloucester and Cheltenham access (via the A40 Golden Valley by-pass) became increasingly congested. At the same time there were plans for large scale business and housing developments at Brockworth, near Gloucester.

To relieve Junction 11 of some of the new traffic generated, and avoid more congestion around both Cheltenham and Gloucester, a new junction, Junction 11A, some 3.5 miles south of Junction 11, was constructed and opened in the mid-1990s.

The Avonmouth Bridge, Bristol

The Avonmouth Bridge was converted to eight lanes (four lanes in each direction) in the early 2000s.

Later, in 2005–2006, parts of the M5 between Junctions 17 and 20 were widened to 7 lanes (four lanes climbing the hills and three lanes descending the hills); variable message signs were added and parts of the central reservation was converted to a concrete step barrier.

During this stage of construction the M5 became Britain’s longest contraflow system, spanning nine miles (14 km) between Junctions 19 and 20.

The M5 contraflow was said to be the most complicated ever built in the UK as the motorway is on a split level around the steep hills of the Gordano Valley; meaning four lanes plus an additional emergency vehicle lane were squeezed into that section.

M5 motorway south of the Avonmouth Bridge

In 2002, extended exits for Junction 12 were constructed. The Highways Agency did not anticipate the traffic flows through the junction and the resultant queues can now extend back onto the motorway.

This is because of an increase in traffic from Stroud intending to use the M5 northbound. The distance from Junctions 12 and 13 is similar and traffic congestion is heavy on the A419 towards Junction 13 whereas it is usually lighter on the B4008 towards Junction 12.

As traffic leaving the M5 northbound towards Gloucester needs to give way to this traffic coming from the B4008, the queue on the motorway can extend beyond the first sign for the junction.

The Cullompton services are signed on the motorway in the northbound direction only. This was implemented to reduce congestion at the low capacity junction, although there is still access available to the services southbound through the junction.

Also, the northbound exit slip to the junction was reduced to one lane instead of two to reduce traffic on the small roundabout at the west side of the junction.

M5 entrance sign at Exeter

In 2009, it was announced that the lighting between junctions 30 and 31 would be turned off between midnight and 5am to save energy.

Proposals were announced in September 2009 for a new Gloucester Services between junctions 11a and 12.

A planning application was submitted in December 2009. Stroud District councillors approved the services in August 2010.[15] The Services opened in May 2014.

In September 2020, Highways England announced that the section between junctions 1 and 2 in the West Midlands will be one of four in England to have its speed limit reduced to sixty miles per hour in a bid to reduce high levels of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide in the particular area.

In the same year, it was announced that Junction 10 would be undergoing significant roadworks as part of a redevelopment project on the A4019.

The works will involve making the interchange full-access and dualling the A4019 east of the junction into Cheltenham. Works will commence in 2023 (subject to permission being granted) and be completed in 2024, according to the Gloucestershire County Council.

M5 tragedies

The M5 has seen its fair share of traffic events over the past 60 years, bodies have been found, bridges have collapses, collisions and accidents which are too many to count.

Some of the biggest ones shook the country at the time of them happening.

Melanie Hall

One such tragedy was the discovery of missing university graduate Melanie Hall’s remains in 2009.

Police forensic officers sifted through and checked soil at the site where murdered Melanie Hall’s remains were found by the side of the Northbound slip road of the M5 motorway, South Gloucestershire.

Police investigated the murder of the university graduate who disappeared in 1996 found DNA evidence from where her remains were found.

Miss Hall, a clerical worker at the Royal United Hospital in Bath[8], vanished after a night out at Cadillacs nightclub in the city on June 9, 1996.

A workman found her remains in vegetation next to the junction 14 northbound slipway of the M5 in Thornbury on October 5, 2009.

M5 workmen deaths, 1999

A decade before the discovery of Melanie, four construction workers fell 80ft to their deaths when a gantry they were working on gave way on a motorway viaduct.

They were working beneath the M5 at Avonmouth Bridge, near Bristol, when the platform on which they were standing gave way.

The access gantry collapsed and fell 80 feet into a car compound, it happened shortly before midday on the northern side of the River Avon. No one else was hurt.

The bridge repair works was part of a five-year £100m project of which two main contractors, Costain and Kvaerner were carrying out the work for the Highways Agency, the dead men were working for Kvaerner.

In 2003, their families were awarded more than £1.3m in compensation.

The settlement, approved by Bristol County Court brought to an end a legal battle that raged since the accident happened on September 8, 1999.

IYA General widget[9]

Two firms involved in the Avonmouth Bridge project, Kvaerner Cleveland Bridge UK and Costain were fined a total of more than 1.3 million after a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive in 2001.

It was one of the largest fines ever handed out in the UK after an industrial accident.

The men died when their gantry plunged more than 80ft from the bridge onto a car compound below.

Another huge accident was in 2011, when on the evening of Friday November 4, seven people were killed and a further 51 injured in a major crash involving over 50 vehicles which included cars, vans and large goods vehicles near Junction 25 in West Monkton, near Taunton[10].

Several vehicles were burnt out in the fire which developed at the scene as the result of a series of explosions, and the road surface was seriously damaged, not just by the fire and explosions, but also by fuel spillage.

The cause of the crash, which took place in wet foggy conditions close to a firework display, was investigated. One person was charged for breach under health and safety laws and found not guilty.

Future developments

As well as looking into the past of the M5, we’ve included a slight look into the motorway’s future.

There have been suggestions that the Government extend the M5 south, to the city of Plymouth, which currently relies on the A38 road.

The argument for such an extension has intensified in light of the closure of Plymouth City Airport in 2011, and the 2014 breaching of the South Devon Railway sea wall following storms that in turn, cut off Plymouth and Cornwall’s rail access.

Improvements to junction 25 at Taunton were approved with an £18 million programme that will include the enlargement of the junction roundabout, the widening of the eastern junction slip road exit, and an additional roundabout southeast of the junction to provide access to a new business park and to a proposed bypass of the hamlet of Henlade.

What are your favourite memories of the M5? Login and let us know in the comments below

Inside the two Cotswold churches fit for our Queen[11]

References

  1. ^ the M5 (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  2. ^ Ghost hunt at Stroud pub uncovers ‘energy of King James and monk’ (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  3. ^ Weston-super-Mare (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  4. ^ Burnham-on-Sea (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  5. ^ Get today’s top stories and entertainment for free straight into your inbox (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  6. ^ Clevedon (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  7. ^ IYA – Memory Lane Gloucestershire (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  8. ^ Bath (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  9. ^ IYA General widget (www.bristolpost.co.uk)
  10. ^ Taunton (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)
  11. ^ Inside the two Cotswold churches fit for our Queen (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)

How endless HGV traffic is ruining the best place to live in Wales

If you’re looking for a town to enjoy a splendid walk and a locally-sourced latte then you’ll struggle to find a better spot than Usk.

In fact if you go by the Sunday Times’ Best Place to Live[1] guide you won’t find a better spot in the whole of Wales than the quaint Monmouthshire town.

There is a farmers’ market and plenty of independent shops and galleries as well as cafes vying to produce the best fare using local produce. And there’s nothing like enjoying all that goodness in the glorious afternoon sunshine while a 34-tonne articulated lorry chugs down the pavement towards you. Right?

Sometimes you might even get a clout around the ear while you’re walking down the town’s Bridge Street or while taking in the view from the bridge over the river.

“I have been hit multiple times,” said Kathryn Challenger, who has lived in the area all her life – moving from house to house in the same street. “But it gets worse – they come straight over the bridge here and crash into the walls,” she explains from her home directly opposite the bridge. “It’s dangerous and can be quite scary.”

Kathryn Challenger, who has lived in Usk all her life, said she has often been hit by lorries while walking over the bridge
Kathryn Challenger, who has lived in Usk all her life, said she has often been hit by lorries while walking over the bridge (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
Bridge Street in Usk, where lorries are cramming through the town again as pandemic restrictions have eased
Bridge Street in Usk, where lorries are cramming through the town again as pandemic restrictions have eased (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

We wait for what feels like five minutes to cross the road at the end of the bridge while two 30-tonne lorries carrying chickens pass by as well as three other equally large vehicles. As they pass the traffic comes to a standstill while the lorries try not to hit each other, the sides of the bridge, and even people’s homes.

Kathryn points: “Look at this one. There are chickens in there. Just a couple of weeks ago one like that went straight into the wall. Sometimes they don’t even realise they’ve done it. But imagine if someone had been walking there.”

The town actually has a ban on lorries coming through that weigh more than 7.5 tonnes – brought in more than 40 years ago after protests over environmental concerns, but issues remain – and residents believe it is due to poor enforcement. Difficulties pinpointing banned vehicles arise because some lorries that are over the weight limit are allowed through Usk to deliver goods.

“Some of them that do come over are ridiculous,” Kathryn added. “I think half of them aren’t allowed to be here – but what can we do?”

There are alternative routes. Lorry drivers could get off at the A449 at Raglan and travel via the A40 or head to the Coldra roundabout.

Residents pointed out that earlier in the pandemic when temporary traffic lights were used at the town’s main Bridge Street road to help social distancing on the narrow pavements – causing traffic pile-ups – considerably fewer lorries used the town as a “rat run”.

The bridge over the Usk in the town centre
The bridge over the Usk in the town centre (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

Liam Ellis, who drives a 34-tonne truck from Raglan transporting straw to farmers, said he is allowed to travel through Usk, but regularly receives abuse when he reaches Bridge Street – with some motorists refusing to move out of his way in protest.

“It’s not pleasant at all,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself waiting to be shouted at. There is clearly a problem because we’re allowed to drive through there but Usk is an absolute nightmare to drive through. But for me it’s the only logical route to get to my customers.

“A solution could be a separate foot bridge adjacent to the existing bridge so the road at the bridge can be widened for vehicles and people aren’t walking across there. I know it can’t carry on like this. Something needs to be done but I don’t know what the best solution is.”

What are the biggest issues in your area? Check out what people are flagging up and report your own using this handy tool:

There are regular instances of lorries meeting at particularly narrow points in the road before incidents of road rage inevitably ensue. Lorries have also been entangled in scaffolding while resident Angela Colclough said she has seen vehicles “destroy hanging baskets” from the front of people’s homes.

“It’s ridiculous really and it can get you down at times,” she said. “Slowing the vehicles down might discourage them. Perhaps we could do with some speed bumps. The clear answer is another road around the town but I don’t think that will happen now. Why don’t they fine them heavily? If there is no punishment for banned lorries it’ll keep happening.”

Angela Colclough
Angela Colclough (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
Lorries meeting at Bridge Street, which residents and traders say is very common and is dangerous
Lorries meeting at Bridge Street, which residents and traders say is very common and is dangerous (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
Bridge Street in Usk, where lorries above the 7.5-tonne weight limit are actually banned unless they're delivering to businesses
Bridge Street in Usk, where lorries above the 7.5-tonne weight limit are actually banned unless they’re delivering to businesses (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

Gwent Police said they would only be able to issue fines if they caught a vehicle going across a limit-restricted bridge and then took the vehicle to a weighbridge to find out how much it was over the restriction.

A group of residents and councillors set up a ‘lorry watch’ scheme intended to report banned vehicles to Monmouthshire County Council’s trading standards team but they said they’ve had minimal success in getting banned vehicles punished and have turned attention to “discouraging rather than preventing”.

Councillor Alec Leathwood, who helps run the scheme and was one of the first to get the weight limit introduced in the town more than 40 years ago, said: “I remember lying in the road in protest all those years ago. We’ve been battling for a long time but we’re still stuck with it.

“We had quite a few volunteers but people got fed up because vehicles were being reported and then not much was getting done. We’ve now accepted that there seems to be no way to keep heavy-goods vehicles out but we can discourage them.

“We try to do that by being visible while identifying vehicles that have no right to be here and by campaigning for changes to the road to make drivers aware they’re coming into a very different area. We could also do with better signage so lorry drivers know what the restrictions are well before they get to Usk – not when it’s too late.

“We just hope there isn’t a major incident. Fortunately, so far, we’ve got away with it.”

There is signage around the town warning lorry drivers about the weight limit but councillor Alec Leathwood said there needs to be better signage on the way into Usk
There is signage around the town warning lorry drivers about the weight limit but councillor Alec Leathwood said there needs to be better signage on the way into Usk (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
It's a common sight in Usk
It’s a common sight in Usk (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
There are also weight limit signs at the car parks in the town
There are also weight limit signs at the car parks in the town (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

A spokesman for Monmouthshire council said: “There is advanced warning of the weight restriction on the A466 and A4042 so we would anticipate the majority of HGVs travelling through the town would have a requirement to do so – or are contravening the restriction in the full knowledge of their actions.”

Martin Sholl, the joint owner of Number 49 tea room in Bridge Street, said he’s noticed HGV traffic increasing significantly in recent weeks as lockdown restrictions eased. Authorised lorries that are above the weight limit deliver to the business but he said a balance needs to be struck.

“[Bridge Street] is back to being full again and the challenge we have is when two meet and the wing mirrors are well over the pavement either side,” he said. “It doesn’t just cause traffic issues – we’ve had people hit by them. The issue is this road is used as a thoroughfare and that is unlikely to change until there is better enforcement.”

Martin Sholl
Martin Sholl (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
Lorry drivers have called for the bridge to be widened by removing the pavement and having a separate foot bridge
Lorry drivers have called for the bridge to be widened by removing the pavement and having a separate foot bridge (Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

He said he “isn’t convinced” the majority of lorries that pass through are authorised. “Many vehicles that come through from Blackwood don’t stop in Usk – they use it as a shortcut to the M50,” he added. “I’ve taken photos of some lorries and you just think to yourself: ‘My goodness, you should not be here’.”

Lynne Morgan at Bunnings of Usk builders’ merchants said: “I don’t think there was any point in the [weight limit] ban in the first place. We need the deliveries and I can’t see a solution that pleases everyone.”

References

  1. ^ Best Place to Live (www.walesonline.co.uk)

Mother swerved by mistake in crash that killed four of family

A mother killed in a car crash with three of her children did not deliberately swerve the vehicle into the path of a lorry, a coroner ruled yesterday, despite evidence that she had been arguing with her husband.

Zoe Powell, 29, a mother of four, died with her daughter Phoebe, eight, when their people carrier collided with the lorry in October. Simeon, six, and Amelia, four, died later in hospital.

Their father Josh survived along with Penny, six months old, who was thrown from the vehicle because her infant’s seat was not strapped in properly.

The family were returning home to Chinnor, in south Oxfordshire, when they crashed at 9.53pm on the A40 at Wolvercote, north Oxford.

The couple had collected their children from Worcester,

Mummy blogger, 29, did not ‘deliberately’ swerve car into HGV

Coroner ‘can’t rule out possibility’ that mummy blogger, 29, ‘deliberately’ veered family car into on-coming HGV – killing herself and three of her four children – after rowing with husband

  • Zoe Powell, was killed with Amelia, four, and Phoebe, eight, and son Simeon, six
  • Their silver Subaru collided with a HGV on the A40 near Oxford on October 12
  • Daughter Penny and husband Josh survived, although he has lost memory
  • Senior coroner Darren Salter said he did ‘not consider it likely’ it was deliberate
  • Mrs Powell was driving the car when it swerved in front of lorry without warning 

The husband of a mother killed in a horror crash with her three children said today ‘the actions of a single moment have wrecked an entire family’.

Artist and mummy blogger Zoe Powell, 29, accidentally swerved their car into the path of a 36-ton lorry after a weekend spent arguing with her husband.

An inquest heard today that Mr Powell decided to drop their four children off at their grandparents’ Worcester home because he had to work in Bristol on October 10.

Two days later he and his wife went to pick them up after having dinner.

Mrs Powell – said to ‘not overly enjoy driving’ – drove the family back in their silver Subaru when the accident happened at 9.53pm on the A40 overbridge at Wolvercote, towards Oxford. 

Her husband, who spent months in hospital, says he has no memory of the crash. The inquest heard that distraction, fatigue or driver error may have caused Mrs Powell to swerve  – but the coroner added ‘I can’t rule out the possibility it was a deliberate act’.

In a statement from Mr Powell and other relatives after the inquest today, he said: ‘Whilst there is much that we will never fully understand about the crash, it is helpful to comprehend some of the potential explanations of what led to it.

‘We thank the police, coroner and crash investigators for their hard work and thoroughness in it all.

‘The possibility that such a small distraction may have caused such a horrific accident should act as a painful reminder for everyone that roads are dangerous places; the actions of a single moment have wrecked an entire family and had a lasting impact on everyone around them.

‘Whilst it may be unpleasant to conceive, there is not a single driver who has not been in a similar situation but by luck alone they have avoided a serious crash.’

Consultant pathologist Professor Ian Roberts confirmed the mother-of-four and her eight-year-old daughter Phoebe had died instantly from multiple injuries, while Amelia and six-year-old Simeon died in John Radcliffe Hospital.

Mr Powell survived and their 15-month-old Penny was ejected from the people carrier during the crash but survived the ordeal.  

There was no CCTV or dashcam footage of the accident but following her tragic death, telephone analysis revealed Zoe had been dealing with a marital argument before her death and had suffered ‘broken sleep’ over the weekend.

A photo of Mrs Powell and her children released by her family after the inquest's concluded

A photo of Mrs Powell and her children released by her family after the inquest's concluded

A photo of Mrs Powell and her children released by her family after the inquest’s concluded

Zoe Powell, 29, with Phoebe, eight, Simeon, six, Amelia, four, and her husband Joshua, 30. The couple also have an 18-month-old daughter Penny - not pictured - who survived the crash

Zoe Powell, 29, with Phoebe, eight, Simeon, six, Amelia, four, and her husband Joshua, 30. The couple also have an 18-month-old daughter Penny - not pictured - who survived the crash

Zoe Powell, 29, with Phoebe, eight, Simeon, six, Amelia, four, and her husband Joshua, 30. The couple also have an 18-month-old daughter Penny – not pictured – who survived the crash

Zoe Powell, was killed alongside daughters Amelia, four, and Phoebe, eight, and son Simeon, six, when their silver Subaru collided with a HGV on the A40 near Oxford

Zoe Powell, was killed alongside daughters Amelia, four, and Phoebe, eight, and son Simeon, six, when their silver Subaru collided with a HGV on the A40 near Oxford

Zoe Powell, was killed alongside daughters Amelia, four, and Phoebe, eight, and son Simeon, six, when their silver Subaru collided with a HGV on the A40 near Oxford

Investigating officer PC Lyndsey Blackaby said: ‘She appeared to have been awake at 6am on October 12.

‘Zoe was a much-loved and active member of the community, clearly devoted to her four children, her marriage and her faith.’

Today sitting in the inquest was heartbroken Mr Powell, his parents Kevin and Sue and his late wif’s father John Milroy. Appearing over video link was Zoe’s aunt Diana, her mother Vivienne and her devastated brother.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Powell said: ‘On October 10 I was looking after my four children due to my wife suddenly leaving the house after an argument. I was due to drive to work in Bristol so I drove the children to my parents’ house in Worcester.

‘We went to collect the children on October 12, I had worked the day shift in Barking. We drove to get the children and that is my last recollection, being at my parents house in the evening….my next memory is six to seven days after the collision.

‘I would normally drive at night, Zoe had passed her test in 2010 but she did not overly enjoy driving, she only did it to get from A to B. Zoe would find driving stressful…she mostly drove locally but two to three times a month she would drive further afield.

Zoe Powell, 29, with her daughter Phoebe, eight, who were both killed by the car crash

Zoe Powell, 29, with her daughter Phoebe, eight, who were both killed by the car crash

Zoe Powell, 29, with her daughter Phoebe, eight, who were both killed by the car crash

The Powell children who died in the tragedy last year, Simeon, Phoebe and Amelia

The Powell children who died in the tragedy last year, Simeon, Phoebe and Amelia

The Powell children who died in the tragedy last year, Simeon, Phoebe and Amelia

Our Family: tribute from relatives today

‘The conclusion of the police investigation and the publication of the coroner’s inquest bring closure to what has been a very difficult part of the wider family’s lives.

‘Whilst there is much that we will never fully understand about the crash, it is helpful to comprehend some of the potential explanations of what led to it.

‘We thank the police, coroner and crash investigators for their hard work and thoroughness in it all.

‘The possibility that such a small distraction may have caused such a horrific accident should act as a painful reminder for everyone that roads are dangerous places; the actions of a single moment have wrecked an entire family and had a lasting impact on everyone around them.

‘Whilst it may be unpleasant to conceive, there is not a single driver who has not been in a similar situation but by luck alone they have avoided a serious crash.

‘Driving is not as safe as we sometimes wish it was. We all have a duty to always drive to the best of our abilities and ensure that we keep the roads as safe as possible.

‘As a family we encourage the wider public to learn from our heartbreak and please make sure they make the right choices when driving on the road.

‘It is hard to find the words to pay tribute to the loss we have suffered. We are very grateful that Zoe, Phoebe, Simeon and Amelia carried themselves excited by the joy of life.

‘In doing so they have left us with an abundance of happy memories that we can reflect back on fondly. The memories of past joy balance the reality that we will make no more memories together and it is hard to escape the wondering of what life would be like if they were still here.

‘We miss them all greatly but are very glad of the times we had together, and as Christians we find rest knowing that their experience in heaven with Christ surpass anything they knew on earth.

‘We have been touched by the depth of support and generosity that has been provided by friends, family, the church and wider community. This has carried us through some very difficult times.

‘We’d like to thank everyone who has wrapped their arms around us and supported us physically, financially and emotionally.

‘Our thoughts go to those who were at the crash scene that bore witness to this horrific accident, especially the lorry driver.

‘As a family we hold no ill feelings and hold no responsibility towards him, we recognise that none of his actions led to the accident.

‘Our hope is for peace for all who have been troubled by the collision and its aftermath. By the grace of God, Josh and Penny have survived this horrific crash with amazingly minimal long term physical impairment.

‘This is in no small part thanks to the public at the crash itself, the hard work of the emergency services and those within the NHS who provided treatments.

‘As we have learnt more of the events before and after the accident, we are blown away by the depth of humanity shown by the emergency services and the huge effort they made to try to save everyone, especially Simeon and Amelia.

‘We have witnessed first-hand the hard work that has gone into Josh and Penny’s treatment, and seen the amazing transformation in restoring their ability to live life.

‘We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved who has worked to not only help Josh & Penny survive but give them their lives back.

‘The family wish to thank the press for respecting our privacy up to this point, this space has helped us grieve and process the horrific events.

‘We hope that this respect continues as everyone involved tries to rebuild.’

 

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‘I brought the multimac rear seat in the summer of 2019, I brought it second hand and installed it myself. All the children travelled well, they would bicker between themselves and they would always sit in the same seats.’

Today the coroner heard how the infant’s seat had not been strapped in properly, allowing baby Penny to be ejected from the car from the force of the collision.

The court heard how the family had been driving along the A40 towards Oxford when it ‘swerved violently’ into the path of a Spanish goods vehicle weighing 36 tonnes.

Lorry driver Adao Patricio – who had been driving at 42mph at the time of the crash and was uninjured – said: ‘The car was less than one lorry’s length away from me when it changed direction and crossed into my lane.. It came across very quickly, it came at me so fast I did not have time to break.’

Following a collision investigation, PC Murray Maclean speculated the reasons that Mrs Powell could have swerved into the path of an oncoming lorry, which included fatigue and distraction which may have affected her steering.

However, he concluded there was insufficient evidence to back up these theories. PC Maclean added: ‘There were no defects that would have contributed to the collision, no trace of alcohol or drugs in Mrs Powell, no evidence that she suffered from any medical episode.

‘I find no evidence that could account of this definitive action on her part.’

Senior coroner Darren Salter recorded a cause of death by Road Traffic Collision.

He said: ‘There is no evidence that this was a deliberate act but as the collision investigator says there is nothing to rule out this as a possibility, I have to at least consider it.

‘There had been arguments that weekend between Zoe and Josh there were relationship issues being worked, through I’ve seen evidence of telephone messages.

‘Zoe appears positive and displays a positive attitude in her last messages, there is no evidence in the messaging or any other evidence that Zoe had thoughts of harming herself or the children.

‘I can’t rule out the possibility it was a deliberate act as the collision investigator says, but I do not consider it likely. It’s more likely to be due to fatigue or distraction, or a combination of the two, and that the steering input was driver error. The cruise control was engaged and at the last moment that accelerator was pressed in error instead of the brake which is a phenomenon sometimes seen.

‘At around 9.50pm on October 12 last year, Zoe Powell was driving her family east towards oxford on the A40 overbridge at Wolvercote when the car crashed onto the wrong side of the road and collided with an oncoming lorry resulting in the deaths of Zoe Powell and her children, Phoebe, Simeon and Amelia.’

The mother-of-four who was killed in the fatal collision ran two companies, one where she sold story books and Biblical paper goods, and another where she sold a diary to help new mothers cope. Her company website featured a heartwarming family portrait where she could be seen cuddling in a tree with three of her children and her husband.

Zoe Rose Powell ran Zoe Prose and The Mama Book, two online companies where she marketed her artistic talents and colourful designs, neighbours confirmed. She also had a controlling interest in Skylark and Hare Ltd., a company focused on artistic creation the construction of railways, which her husband, Joshua Kevin Powell, was the director of. The Mama Book company was part of Skylark and Hare Ltd.

Mrs Powell, on her The Mama Book website, said: ‘The mama book is a journal and community that was born out of my own need for a space- a physical place to write and focus and reflect on motherhood.

‘When I created this journal for myself I was feeling overwhelmed by the everyday demands of having three young children. One day in the middle of the craziness of having three 3 and unders underfoot I filled a notebook with all the thoughts about mothering that were filling up my head.

‘Since then I have used it daily, tweaked it and refined it. It is the space I wish I had been able to give myself when my first baby was born, and a space that I am continuing to use through each season of mothering.

‘The mama book is all about bringing you some mental space in the midst of motherhood. Giving you a reason to press pause, and a chance reflect on both your big dreams and also the minutiae of your day-to-day, so that you can head back out into each season of mothering with joy and purpose. It is about inspiring us to keep our eyes on both the small moments that matter and the bigger picture.’

References

  1. ^ Dan Sales For Mailonline (www.dailymail.co.uk)

Tributes to mum and three kids who died in horror lorry crash

A 29-year-old mother and three of her children died after their car collided with an oncoming lorry on the A40, Buckinghamshire Live reports[1].

Zoe Powell and children Phoebe, eight, Simeon, six, and Amelia, four, were killed in the crash on the A40 near Oxford on October 12 last year.

Husband Josh and the couple’s youngest child, 18-month-old Penny, were also passengers in the family’ Subaru and survived the crash, which took place at around 9.50pm in the evening.

An inquest at Oxford Coroner’s Court, which concluded today (Thursday, June 10 2021), heard the couple had collected their four children, who had been staying with Mr Powell’s parents in Worcestershire, and were returning to their home in Chinnor, close to the Bucks border, when the crash took place.

To get the latest email updates from South YorkshireLive, click here[2].

Mrs Powell, from Sheffield, was driving the family’s people carrier, which had a specialist car seat system attached to allow the four children to sit beside each other on the back seat.

The inquest heard the crash happened when the Subaru swerved into the path of a fully-laden Renault 480 lorry on the opposite side of the road.

Darren Salter, senior coroner, said he could not rule out the possibility this was a “deliberate act” – but added that he did not consider it likely and that there was “no evidence” that Mrs Powell had thoughts of harming herself or her children.

“It’s more likely to be due to fatigue or distraction, or a combination of the two, and that the steering input was driver error,” Mr Salter said.

Zoe and three of her children died in the crash, with husband Josh and their 18-month-old baby fighting to stay alive

“The cruise control was engaged and at the last moment the accelerator was pressed instead of the brake, which is a phenomenon sometimes seen in these circumstances.”

He reached a conclusion of road traffic collision for Mrs Powell and her three children, and said their deaths occurred when their car “crashed on to the wrong side of the road and collided with an oncoming lorry”.

Mrs Powell, an artist and author, and daughter Phoebe were both pronounced dead at the scene – with the cause of their deaths given as multiple injuries.

Son Simeon and daughter Amelia were taken to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, where they later died. Simeon’s cause of death was recorded as traumatic brain injuries while Amelia suffered a severe head injury.

Mr Powell, a railway engineer, said he had no memory of the crash and his last recollection was being at his parents’ home that evening in a statement read out at the inquest.

Lorry driver Adao Patricio described seeing the Subaru approaching on the opposite side of the road before “suddenly” changing direction and swerving into the lane he was driving on.

He told the inquest: “I had nowhere to go. The car came across onto my side of the road very quickly – I don’t know how that could even happen.

“It was travelling fast but I would not say it was travelling at excess speed. I didn’t have time to brake before the car hit my lorry.”

Mr Patricio said his lorry weighed 18,000kg and had a full cargo of 18,000kg, meaning a combined weight of 36,000kg.

The Powell family

The inquest heard youngest daughter Penny was thrown out of the car by the impact of the collision and was found crying on the ground by drivers who had stopped after the crash.

In a report, investigating officer Pc Lyndsey Blackaby said Penny received first aid at the scene and was later discharged from hospital.

Mr Powell was extracted from the wreckage of the Subaru and spent several months in hospital recovering from serious injuries.

Describing Mrs Powell, Pc Blackaby said: “Zoe Powell was a much-loved, respected and active member of the community.

“She was clearly devoted to her four children, her marriage and her faith.”

The inquest heard an investigation did not find any issues with Mr Patricio’s driving before the collision and there was “no clear reason” why the Subaru swerved into the path of his lorry.

Pc Murray Maclean, a forensic collision investigator, said he could find no evidence of braking or loss of control on the road prior to the impact.

Data recovered from the Subaru showed it was steered to the right, then to the left, and the accelerator was fully pressed down in the seconds before the crash.

Pc Maclean said Mr Patricio had “no real chance” of avoiding what happened.

The coroner described the incident as “tragic” and offered his condolences to the families of Mrs Powell and her husband, who attended the hearing.

In a statement issued through Thames Valley Police following the inquest, the family thanked police and the coroner.

The statement read: ““The conclusion of the police investigation and the publication of the coroner’s inquest bring closure to what has been a very difficult part of the wider family’s lives.

“Whilst there is much that we will never fully understand about the crash, it is helpful to comprehend some of the potential explanations of what led to it.

“We thank the police, coroner and crash investigators for their hard work and thoroughness in it all.

“The possibility that such a small distraction may have caused such a horrific accident should act as a painful reminder for everyone that roads are dangerous places; the actions of a single moment have wrecked an entire family and had a lasting impact on everyone around them.

“Whilst it may be unpleasant to conceive, there is not a single driver who has not been in a similar situation but by luck alone they have avoided a serious crash.

“Driving is not as safe as we sometimes wish it was. We all have a duty to always drive to the best of our abilities and ensure that we keep the roads as safe as possible.

“As a family we encourage the wider public to learn from our heartbreak and please make sure they make the right choices when driving on the road.

“It is hard to find the words to pay tribute to the loss we have suffered. We are very grateful that Zoe, Phoebe, Simeon and Amelia carried themselves excited by the joy of life.”

Paying tribute, they added: “In doing so they have left us with an abundance of happy memories that we can reflect back on fondly. The memories of past joy balance the reality that we will make no more memories together and it is hard to escape the wondering of what life would be like if they were still here.

“We miss them all greatly but are very glad of the times we had together, and as Christians we find rest knowing that their experience in heaven with Christ surpass anything they knew on earth.

“We have been touched by the depth of support and generosity that has been provided by friends, family, the church and wider community. This has carried us through some very difficult times.

“We’d like to thank everyone who has wrapped their arms around us and supported us physically, financially and emotionally.

“Our thoughts go to those who were at the crash scene that bore witness to this horrific accident, especially the lorry driver.

“As a family we hold no ill feelings and hold no responsibility towards him, we recognise that none of his actions led to the accident.

“Our hope is for peace for all who have been troubled by the collision and its aftermath. By the grace of God, Josh and Penny have survived this horrific crash with amazingly minimal long term physical impairment.

“This is in no small part thanks to the public at the crash itself, the hard work of the emergency services and those within the NHS who provided treatments.

“As we have learnt more of the events before and after the accident, we are blown away by the depth of humanity shown by the emergency services and the huge effort they made to try to save everyone, especially Simeon and Amelia.

“We have witnessed first-hand the hard work that has gone into Josh and Penny’s treatment, and seen the amazing transformation in restoring their ability to live life.

“We want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved who has worked to not only help Josh & Penny survive but give them their lives back.

“The family wish to thank the press for respecting our privacy up to this point, this space has helped us grieve and process the horrific events.

“We hope that this respect continues as everyone involved tries to rebuild.”

References

  1. ^ Buckinghamshire Live reports (www.buckinghamshirelive.com)
  2. ^ click here (www.leeds-live.co.uk)

Oxfordshire: Mum and three children died after car swerved into ‘fully-laden lorry’ on other side of road

A mother and her three children died when their car swerved into the path of a “fully-laden” lorry on the other side of the road, an inquest heard.

Zoe Powell, 29, together with daughters Amelia, four, and Phoebe, eight, and six-year-old son, Simeon, were killed in the crash on the A40[1] near Oxford at around 9.50pm on 12 October 2020.

Mrs Powell’s husband, Josh, and their youngest child, Penny, 18 months, were also passengers in the family’s Subaru people carrier – but survived the crash.

The crash was likely caused by “fatigue and distraction”, said senior coroner Darren Salter at Oxford Coroner’s Court.

The couple were returning to their home in Chinnor, Oxfordshire[2], after collecting their children, who had been staying with Mr Powell’s parents in Worcestershire[3].

Mrs Powell was driving the vehicle, which had a specialist car seat system attached to enable the four children to sit next to each other on the back seat.

The coroner said he could not rule out the possibility that the crash was a “deliberate act” – but added that he did not consider it likely.

There was “no evidence” that Mrs Powell had thoughts of harming herself or her children, he told the court.

“It’s more likely to be due to fatigue or distraction, or a combination of the two, and that the steering input was driver error,” Mr Salter said.

“The cruise control was engaged and at the last moment the accelerator was pressed instead of the brake, which is a phenomenon sometimes seen in these circumstances.”

The coroner reached a conclusion of road traffic collision as the cause of death for Mrs Powell and her three children.

Their deaths occurred when their car “crashed on to the wrong side of the road and collided with an oncoming lorry”.

Railway engineer Mr Powell said in a statement how he had no memory of the crash.

In an emotional tribute, he described feeling an “abundance of loss”[4].

Lorry driver Adao Patricio said his lorry and cargo weighed 18,000kg each, totalling 36,000kg. He told how he had “nowhere to go” when the Subaru swerved into the lane he was driving on.

An investigation found no issues with Mr Patricio’s driving before the collision and there was “no clear reason” why the Subaru swerved into the path of his lorry, the inquest heard.

PC Murray Maclean, a forensic collision investigator, said Mr Patricio had “no real chance” of avoiding what the car.

In a statement issued through Thames Valley Police, the families said there was much they would “never fully understand about the crash”.

“The possibility that such a small distraction may have caused such a horrific accident should act as a painful reminder for everyone that roads are dangerous places; the actions of a single moment have wrecked an entire family and had a lasting impact on everyone around them,” they said.

References

  1. ^ crash on the A40 (news.sky.com)
  2. ^ Oxfordshire (news.sky.com)
  3. ^ Worcestershire (news.sky.com)
  4. ^ he described feeling an “abundance of loss” (news.sky.com)

Mum and three kids killed in head-on collision with lorry

A MOTHER and her three children died when their family car collided with an oncoming lorry on its way back from Worcestershire.

Zoe Powell, 29, and children Phoebe, eight, Simeon, six, and Amelia, four, were killed in the crash on the A40 near Oxford at about 9.50pm on October 12 2020, an inquest heard.

Her husband Josh Powell and their youngest child Penny, aged 18 months, were also passengers in the family’s Subaru people carrier and survived the collision.

Oxford Coroner’s Court heard the couple had collected their four children, who had been staying with Mr Powell’s parents in Worcestershire, and were returning to their home in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, at the time.

Mrs Powell was driving the family car, which had a specialist car seat system attached to allow the four children to sit beside each other on the back seat.

The inquest heard how the crash happened when the Subaru swerved into the path of a fully-laden Renault 480 lorry on the opposite side of the road.

Senior coroner Darren Salter said he could not rule out the possibility this was a “deliberate act” but he did not consider it likely.

He added there was “no evidence” that Mrs Powell had thoughts of harming herself or her children.

“It’s more likely to be due to fatigue or distraction, or a combination of the two, and that the steering input was driver error,” Mr Salter said.

“The cruise control was engaged and at the last moment the accelerator was pressed instead of the brake, which is a phenomenon sometimes seen in these circumstances.”

He reached a conclusion of road traffic collision for Mrs Powell and her three children, and said their deaths occurred when their car “crashed on to the wrong side of the road and collided with an oncoming lorry”.

Mrs Powell, an artist and author, and daughter Phoebe were pronounced dead at the scene, with the cause of their deaths given as multiple injuries.

Son Simeon and daughter Amelia were taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, where they later died. Simeon’s cause of death was recorded as traumatic brain injuries while Amelia suffered a severe head injury.

In a statement read to the inquest, Mr Powell, a railway engineer, said he had no memory of the crash and his last recollection was being at his parents’ home that evening.

Lorry driver Adao Patricio described seeing the Subaru approaching on the opposite side of the road before “suddenly” changing direction and swerving into the lane he was driving on.

“I had nowhere to go. The car came across onto my side of the road very quickly – I don’t know how that could even happen,” Mr Patricio said.

“It was travelling fast but I would not say it was travelling at excess speed. I didn’t have time to brake before the car hit my lorry.”

Mr Patricio said his lorry weighed 18,000kg and had a full cargo of 18,000kg, meaning a combined weight of 36,000kg.

The inquest heard youngest daughter Penny was thrown out of the car by the impact of the collision and was found crying on the ground by drivers who had stopped after the crash.

In a report, investigating officer Pc Lyndsey Blackaby said Penny received first aid at the scene and was later discharged from hospital.

Mr Powell was extracted from the wreckage of the Subaru and spent several months in hospital recovering from serious injuries.

Describing Mrs Powell, Pc Blackaby said: “Zoe Powell was a much-loved, respected and active member of the community.

“She was clearly devoted to her four children, her marriage and her faith.”

An investigation did not find any issues with Mr Patricio’s driving before the collision and there was “no clear reason” why the Subaru swerved into the path of his lorry, the inquest heard.

Pc Murray Maclean, a forensic collision investigator, said he could find no evidence of braking or loss of control on the road prior to the impact.

Data recovered from the Subaru showed it was steered to the right, then to the left, and the accelerator was fully pressed down in the seconds before the crash.

Pc Maclean said Mr Patricio had “no real chance” of avoiding what happened.

The coroner described the incident as “tragic” and offered his condolences to the families of Mrs Powell and her husband, who attended the hearing.

In a statement issued through Thames Valley Police, the families said there was much they would “never fully understand about the crash”.

“The possibility that such a small distraction may have caused such a horrific accident should act as a painful reminder for everyone that roads are dangerous places; the actions of a single moment have wrecked an entire family and had a lasting impact on everyone around them,” they said.

Tragic crash families hope motorists ‘can learn from our heartbreak’

T

he families of a mother and three of her children who died when their family car collided with an oncoming lorry have urged people to “learn from our heartbreak” and make the right choices when driving.

Zoe Powell, 29, and children Phoebe, eight; Simeon, six; and Amelia, four, were killed in the crash on the A40[1] near Oxford[2] at about 9.50pm on October 12 last year.

Her husband, Josh Powell, and their youngest child, Penny, aged 18 months, were also passengers in the family’s Subaru[3] people carrier but survived the collision.

An inquest into their deaths took place at Oxford Coroner’s Court on Thursday, with senior coroner Darren Salter[4] recording that Mrs Powell and her three children died as a result of a road traffic collision.

In a statement issued through Thames Valley Police following the hearing, the families said the inquest had brought closure to a “very difficult part” of their lives.

“Whilst there is much that we will never fully understand about the crash, it is helpful to comprehend some of the potential explanations of what led to it,” they said.

Driving is not as safe as we sometimes wish it was. We all have a duty to always drive to the best of our abilities and ensure that we keep the roads as safe as possible.

“We thank the police, coroner and crash investigators for their hard work and thoroughness in it all.

“The possibility that such a small distraction may have caused such a horrific accident should act as a painful reminder for everyone that roads are dangerous places; the actions of a single moment have wrecked an entire family and had a lasting impact on everyone around them.

“Whilst it may be unpleasant to conceive, there is not a single driver who has not been in a similar situation but by luck alone they have avoided a serious crash.

Driving[5] is not as safe as we sometimes wish it was. We all have a duty to always drive to the best of our abilities and ensure that we keep the roads as safe as possible.

“As a family we encourage the wider public to learn from our heartbreak and please make sure they make the right choices when driving on the road.”

The families said it was hard to find the words to pay tribute to their loss and described how Mrs Powell, Phoebe, Simeon and Amelia “carried themselves excited by the joy of life”.

“In doing so they have left us with an abundance of happy memories that we can reflect back on fondly,” they said.

“The memories of past joy balance the reality that we will make no more memories together and it is hard to escape the wondering of what life would be like if they were still here.

“We miss them all greatly but are very glad of the times we had together, and as Christians we find rest knowing that their experience in heaven with Christ surpass anything they knew on earth.”

The families thanked support and generosity provided by friends, family, the church and wider community following the deaths.

They said: “Our thoughts go to those who were at the crash scene that bore witness to this horrific accident, especially the lorry driver.

“As a family we hold no ill feelings and hold no responsibility towards him, we recognise that none of his actions led to the accident.

“Our hope is for peace for all who have been troubled by the collision and its aftermath. By the grace of God, Josh and Penny have survived this horrific crash with amazingly minimal long-term physical impairment.

“This is in no small part thanks to the public at the crash itself, the hard work of the emergency services and those within the NHS who provided treatments.

“As we have learnt more of the events before and after the accident, we are blown away by the depth of humanity shown by the emergency services and the huge effort they made to try to save everyone, especially Simeon and Amelia.

“We have witnessed first-hand the hard work that has gone into Josh and Penny’s treatment, and seen the amazing transformation in restoring their ability to live life.”

The families thanked those involved with helping Mr Powell and Penny survive, as well as giving them “their lives back”.

References

  1. ^ A40 (www.standard.co.uk)
  2. ^ Oxford (www.standard.co.uk)
  3. ^ Subaru (www.standard.co.uk)
  4. ^ Darren Salter (www.standard.co.uk)
  5. ^ Driving (www.standard.co.uk)