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M5 Crash: Fireworks Organiser Acquitted

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5:31am 11th December 2013
(Updated 5:31am 11th December 2013)

The organiser of a fireworks display has been cleared of breaching health and safety laws after the death of a Gunnislake dad in a motorway pile up.

Kye Thomas was among seven people who lost their lives on the M5 back in 2011.

Mr Thomas was not the only person with a connection to the Duchy.

He was a driver for the company that owns Ginsters and lost his life along with colleague Terry Brice in the 34 vehicle pile-up.

Michael Barton and daughter Maggie were on their way home from a funeral in Penzance.

A judge at Bristol Crown Court ordered the jury to find 51 year old Geoffrey Counsell from Ashill not guilty.

Geoffrey Counsell, 51, 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".

Speaking outside Bristol Crown Court, Mr Counsell expressed his sympathy to all those affected by the "terrible crash" on the M5 on November 4, 2011.

"I have been through an appalling experience over the last two years, yet I recognise that my misfortune is as nothing compared with that of those bereaved and injured as a result of that accident," he said.

A judge directed the jury to find Mr Counsell not guilty of a single charge of failing to ensure the safety of others contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The charge alleged that Mr Counsell, of Ashill in Somerset, failed to ensure he operated the firework display so as to ensure, as far as was reasonably practicable, that others who might be affected were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

Mr Counsell was originally charged with seven counts of manslaughter, but they were dropped earlier this year and instead he faced the health and safety charge.

Seven people died in a massive motorway pile-up involving more than 30 cars when they were engulfed in a thick fog on a section of the M5 near Taunton.

Mr Justice Simon ruled that Mr Counsell had "no case to answer" following an application from the defendant's barrister made at the halfway point in the trial.

The judge said the prosecution's case was based on "hindsight" and there was not sufficient evidence to show that Mr Counsell ought to have foreseen that smoke from the display, could have drifted and mixed with fog to create thick smog.

5:31am 11th December 2013

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