M5 crash: fireworks display organiser charged with manslaughter
PUBLISHED October 20, 2012
Geoffrey Counsell, 50, from Somerset, had provided a fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club in a field close to the M5 motorway on 4 November last year when 34 vehicles crashed into each other.
Seven people were killed and 51 were injured in the pile up. Rescue workers at the time described it as the worst British motorway accident in memory and witnesses described poor visibility on the motorway where the crash happened.
Mr Counsell will appear in front of magistrates in Bristol next month accused of seven counts of manslaughter.
Anthony and Pamela Adams, Maggie and Michael Barton, Malcolm Beacham, Terry Brice and Kye Thomas died in the pile-up near Taunton, on the night of November 4, 2011.
In a joint statement, Avon and Somerset Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, said last night: "Today the Crown Prosecution Service has authorised Avon and Somerset Police to charge Geoffrey Counsell with seven counts of manslaughter following the deaths of Anthony and Pamela Adams, Maggie and Michael Barton, Malcolm Beacham, Terry Brice and Kye Thomas in a collision on the M5 in November 2011.
Among those badly injured in the crash on the northbound carriageway at junction 25 was Emma Barton, 19, who woke from a five-day coma to discover she had been orphaned.
Her wheelchair-bound father Michael, 67, and 30-year-old sister Maggie died.
"Since the collision we have worked closely together to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the collision and to carefully consider all the evidence.
"This has been a complex process which has also involved working with Taunton Deane Borough Council and seeking the views of expert witnesses.
"Having considered the evidence in line with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the CPS decided there was sufficient evidence to charge Geoffrey Counsell, the provider of the fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club on the night of the collision, with manslaughter.
"The charges are due to his failings in the planning and operation of the display.
"It was clear from the investigation carried out by Avon and Somerset Police that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute for driver error and therefore no action will be taken against any motorists.
"The CPS also considered the culpability of Taunton Rugby Club and reached the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction."