Fireworks man in court over M5 deaths
A fireworks boss appeared in court yesterday charged with the manslaughter of seven people who died in a motorway pile-up near a display he organised.
Geoffrey Counsell, 50, oversaw an event at Taunton Rugby Club in Somerset shortly before a 34-car collision on the M5.
Seven people died and 51 were injured in the pile-up, which happened at 8.30pm on November 4 last year, in poor visibility close to junction 25.
Mr Counsell, who runs Firestorm Pyrotechnics, was charged last month over alleged failings in the planning and operation of the display.
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Yesterday he made his first appearance at Bristol Magistrates' Court where he did not enter a plea and spoke only to confirm his name and address.
Mr Counsell, of Ashill, Somerset, was bailed and is due to appear at Bristol Crown Court on December 4.
Lorry drivers Terry Brice, of Patchway, South Gloucestershire, and Kye Thomas, of Gunnislake, Cornwall, died in the crash, along with: father and daughter Michael and Maggie Barton, of Windsor, Berkshire; grandparents Anthony and Pamela Adams, of Newport, South Wales; and battle re- enactor Malcolm Beacham, of Bridgwater, Somerset.
In a joint statement released last month, Avon and Somerset Police and the Crown Prosecution Service said no action would be taken against individual motorists or the rugby club.
They said: "Since the collision, we have worked closely together to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the collision and to carefully consider all the evidence."
They added that they had also sought 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 alleged 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."