Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

M5 crash survivor's orphan shock

Emergency services working at the crash scene on the M5 motorway close to Taunton in Somerset

A survivor of the M5 crash has told of how she woke from a five-day coma to discover she had been orphaned.

Emma Barton, 19, was in a car with fiance Chris Burbull, father Michael Barton, 67, and sister Maggie Barton, when they were involved in the pile-up near Taunton on November 4.

Seven people were killed in the accident, including Miss Barton's wheelchair-bound father, and 30-year-old sister Maggie. A total of 51 people were injured in the accident, which involved 37 vehicles, and was described as one of the worst British motorway crashes in memory.

Miss Barton was rushed to hospital where she was put into a medically induced coma after suffering injuries including a fractured pelvis, broken ribs, collapsed lungs and bruising on the brain. When she awoke five days later, Mr Burbull had to break the news to her that she was now an orphan - her father and sister had died, and she had lost her mother to cancer in 2005, when Miss Barton was 13.

In an interview with the Sunday Mirror, the 19-year-old said a decision to travel in the front of the Ford Fiesta with Mr Burbull, 23, rather than sitting in the back meant she survived while her loved ones did not. "There are a lot of 'what ifs'. And I have thought about it because I was going to sit in the back and I didn't," she told the newspaper.

Mr Burbull described the moment he broke the news to his fiancee when she woke up: "I remember she looked at me and I said, 'Do you know what has happened?'. When I told her she just cried, 'what?', a single tear dropped and she went back to sleep."

The family were on their way home to Windsor, Berkshire, after Miss Barton's great uncle's funeral in Penzance, when Mr Burbull drove into a wall of fog on the northbound carriageway. The car was hit by a lorry in the pile-up, leaving Miss Barton's father and sister dead, and he and Miss Barton injured.

"You couldn't see the white lines on the floor, or the barriers. The last thing I remember I was really concentrating on the road and I said, 'Emma I can't see anything. This is a joke'. It happened in a blink of a second. It was like hitting a brick wall. I remember waking up with my face burning where the airbag had hit me. Then in the time it took to turn my head around, we were hit from behind. I was knocked out again and then I woke up in an ambulance."

The tragedy has had a devastating effect - Miss Barton has not been able to return to the family home while her fiance is having counselling because he blames himself for the loss of her relatives. "Every time we went back to the house after being out for the day, Maggie was always there," Miss Barton said. "I expect her to be there now and she is not. I just couldn't go in."

Despite the heartache, the couple have plans for the future - Miss Barton aims to return to work at the shop which raises funds for the hospice that cared for her mother, and Mr Burbull will join as a volunteer. The couple also plan to get married in July next year, on their fifth anniversary.

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