Weather expert gives evidence at M5 crash trial
2:38pm Wednesday 4th December 2013 in News
EVIDENCE alleging that the M5 crash that claimed the lives of a Barry couple was caused by nearby fireworks has been questioned.
The 34-vehicle pile-up in Taunton last November killed seven people including Tony and Pamela Adams, who grew up in Barry, who were travelling home to Newport after visiting their daughter in Taunton.
A jury at Bristol Crown court heard that statistics compiled from spectator statements at Taunton Rugby Club on the night were not “robust.”
The evidence was challenged by defence lawyers for fireworks boss Geoffrey Counsell, 51, who denies a single charge under the Health and Safety Act in relation to the display he staged at the rugby club.
Giving evidence this week, Met Office scientist Richard Stretch analysed the wind direction and other weather conditions on the night of the crash
He told the court photographs taken of the display tend to show “puffs of smoke” mixing with fog and heading in the direction of the motorway 200m away.
Mr Stretch said: “I think we are looking at smoke or perhaps a mix of smoke and fog, but I think it’s generally smoke.”
The jury heard the expert looked at 187 statements given to police by spectators and drivers.
Mr Stretch said two-thirds of the spectators backed his view that smoke was drifting towards the motorway, but during cross examination, Adrian Darbishire, defending Mr Counsell, said this was not an accurate reflection.
Mr Darbishire referred to a meeting of Met Office experts and police in December 2012 at which it was brought up that not all statements had been used.
“There were a lot of people from whom statements had not been taken,” he said.
The court was told that out of a pool of 28 spectators, 17 believed smoke drifted away from the motorway, but only one of these was included in the Mr Stretch’s report.
Prosecutors allege Mr Counsell, acting under his business Firestorm Pyrotechnics, did not carry out health and safety duties properly and should have stopped the display earlier.
They claim thick smog blocked the view of drivers, causing the fatal pile-up.
Childhood sweethearts Tony and Pamela Adams were born and raised in Barry before moving to Newport in the 1970s.