M5 CRASH: Colyton family survive inferno

Family’s miracle escape as vehicles exploded all around them and the road became a river of fire

A COLYTON family escaped from their van seconds before it exploded in flames during the M5 motorway crash on Friday.

Matt and Michelle Craker and their son Freddie, seven, were amongst those caught up in the centre of the inferno.

Today Mr Craker, 39, told how they were lucky to escape with their lives, along with their three Briard show dogs, amid scenes of “complete and utter carnage”.

He said: “The flames were everywhere. We could hear people screaming but we could not see them.

“The heat of the fire was immense. It was utterly horrific.”

Mrs Craker, a dog trainer who runs weekly classes in Axminster, was at the wheel as the family rejoined the motorway after a service station break.

Most Read

Then seconds later “everything turned black,” recalls Mr Craker.

“It was literally like someone turned out the lights…a wall of pitch black fog.

“Next thing we knew we had smashed into the back of a car - we were helpless as we were struck at least four times by different vehicles.

“We were getting bashed from every side, getting pushed, luckily, towards the outside of the motorway rather than into the flames.

‘One side of the van hit the barrier and there were flames outside the other. I had to take Freddie out through a window, while Michelle tried to rescue the dogs.

“She managed to get them out, but had to smash through a side window. As we got out of the van, the lorry in front of us was being engulfed in flames.

“Another lorry in the middle of the road was on fire. There were explosions everywhere, like a war zone. The heat was intense.

“There were screams coming from everywhere, but we couldn’t see any people because of the flames and smoke. Even the road surface was on fire – someone’s fuel must have been leaking.

“Our best escape was to climb roughly 40 feet down the side of the embankment. As I looked back, I saw our van go up in flames.”

Mr Craker than helped another victim, who was badly hurt, to get down the embankment and to safety.

He added: “We finally reached safety after crossing a water-filled ditch and climbing a fence into a farmer’s field. We put the other man into the recovery position and shouted for help.

“We looked back up at the crash scene and thought ‘Thank God we’re out of that’. The only other survivors we saw were a father and his two sons who also made their way down the embankment.

“A fireman heard us and called for help, but it was an hour before someone could get past the flames to get to us. We were huddled together down in the field.”

Mr Craker said they had to use their belts to stop their dogs – Ruby, Ikkon and Fleur – from running off.

“When they did rescue us, they took us under the bridge, and that’s when Michelle’s legs gave out due to the shock and stress.”

The Crakers had been on their way to Gloucester for the weekend to celebrate Mrs Craker’s parents’ 43rd wedding anniversary.

They were taken to Yeovil hospital for treatment.

This week Mrs Craker was confirmed to have a broken nose while Freddie suffered multiple abrasions on his face and they suffered whiplash injuries.

Mr Craker said it could be a while before any psychology effects of being in the middle of the horrific crash were known.

He added: “At the moment it’s all a bit unreal. For our part, I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have survived.

“We just bought that van on Tuesday for Michelle to use for work. Otherwise, we would have been travelling in a much smaller Vauxhall Insignia.

“I shudder to think what would have happened to us. I am not looking to blame anyone. All of the drivers were the same position – we just couldn’t see. I just feel so thankful that me and my family survived.”