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Motorway pile-up inquest to begin

An inquest into the deaths of seven people killed in a massive motorway crash will begin today.

West Somerset coroner Michael Rose will resume the hearing following the trial last year of firework contractor Geoffrey Counsell.

Mr Counsell, who had been operating a display at the nearby Taunton rugby club, was cleared at Bristol Crown Court of breaching health and safety laws on the night of the accident on the M5 near Taunton in November 2011.

The 51-year-old said he believed the decision to prosecute him was "motivated by a desire to find someone to blame for this terrible accident, simply for the sake of doing so".

Grandparents Anthony and Pamela Adams, from Newport, South Wales; father and daughter Michael and Maggie Barton, from Windsor, Berkshire; battle re-enactor Malcolm Beacham, from Woolavington, Somerset; and lorry drivers Terry Brice, from South Gloucestershire, and Kye Thomas, from Cornwall, died and 51 people were injured, including some seriously, in the pile-up involving more than 30 cars.

During Mr Counsell's trial, motorists described the fog as being so thick on the northbound carriageway they likened it to having a tin of paint thrown over their windscreens.

The inquest, which will be heard before a jury, is taking place at Shire Hall in Taunton and is expected to last up to a week.

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