There has been a bit of noise on Twitter about the Richard Littlejohn piece Stranded on the road to nowhere about the tragic Christmas Day accident on the M6 near Stoke-on-Trent where 3 people, including 2 children lost their lives.
The tone of Littlejohn’s piece is pretty much, oh there has been an accident, drag the bodies and the wreckage to the hard shoulder open the road and carry on. Nobody likes being stuck on a closed motorway or road, especially not on Christmas Day, but there are pretty good reasons why the Police & Highways Agency close the road in situations like this, not least of all it could be a crime scene. In the case of the Christmas Day accident, it is believed that only one vehicle was involved so it isn’t technically a crime scene, but you just don’t know.
I’m not going to go through his piece line by line I’m just going to deal with some of the stuff that I think he has got wrong, although I’m not a Police Officer or a Highways Agency Traffic Officer I feel I am qualified to do this as I was there with my camera.
Yes both carriageways were closed and two air ambulances attended, it is customary to close both sides of a road if you are going to land helicopters, it just you know, makes sense… There was a picture with the 2 air ambulances, land ambulances and fire engines on the BBC website, but I can’t seem to find it at the minute.
The accident on the M6 happened at 11.25am. Though the southbound carriageway was reopened in the afternoon, the northbound carriageway stayed shut for several hours until early evening.
Yes the southbound carriageway reopened at about 14:30, here is a picture of the first vehicles passing the accident scene.
(NB all my images are geolocated so if you click the image to view it on Flickr then click on the map on the right of the screen you can see exactly where it was taken)
You can see on the left as Littlejohn puts it
Pictures from the scene showed the wrecked vehicle being loaded onto the back of a recovery truck on the hard shoulder while half a dozen blokes in hi-viz jackets stand around chatting in the middle of the motorway.
Yes there are a lot of people there in hi-viz jackets, what is actually happening here is the vehicle is being prepared to be lifted on to the truck, that is 2 people, there were at least 3 people from the maintenance company who look after this bit of motorway who were cutting branches off trees to allow the vehicle to be lifted. In Littlejohn’s piece he has a picture with a different view of roughly the same area, at about the same time. What he doesn’t say and probably doesn’t know is that the 3 bodies had only just been removed from the scene some 10 minutes earlier. Until the private ambulance had left the scene we (me and the other press photographers on the bridge) were stopped from taking pictures. It stands to reason that the southbound carriageway would also remain closed until this had happened, the last thing you need is an accident on the opposite carriageway because someone was rubbernecking. Another way of looking at it is, how do you explain to your 5 year old that the two men in black suits pushing a trolly with what looks like an oversized bin bag on it, in to the back of a black van where moving a dead body? On Christmas Day as well.. I suppose it is a good way to start the Santa doesn’t exist conversation.
As for the blokes standing around chatting, they are probably the same guys who have had to help move the bodies of the 2 children and their aunt, doing this on Christmas Day when they probably really want to be at home with their own children. So I think allowing them a few minutes to reflect isn’t unacceptable really, the season of good will and all that.
In the background is a three-lane tailback of stationary cars and lorries stretching goodness knows how many miles into the distance.
You will notice that the Daily Mail article uses a stock picture of stationary traffic and not one from the actual Christmas Day accident, but that’s OK as I have some that I took while I was there. So lets look at the M6 about 1 mile south of the accident scene at about 14:00. Here you go
This picture sort of speaks for itself, but I’ll explain it. You can see from the sign on the left that it is a mile (roughly) from the accident scene, the vehicles are travelling south on the north bound carriageway, they are being escorted by a Highways Agency vehicle (not shown in this picture). If the blue sign is about a mile from the accident and other than the truck on the inside lane in the distance there is no stationary traffic then Littlejohn’s statement of
a three-lane tailback of stationary cars and lorries stretching goodness knows how many miles into the distance
is rubbish, yes I’m sure that an hour earlier I may have been able to see stationary traffic here, less than a mile from the accident.
Here is a picture looking south at the
three-lane tailback of stationary cars and lorries stretching goodness knows how many miles into the distance.
This is taken from the same bridge as the picture of the accident scene, and yes there are 3 lanes of stationary traffic stretching back about 1/4 of a mile maybe? The more eagle eyed amongst you may see that right at the back of the massive queue of traffic you can see brake lights, this is where vehicles have been turned around to head back down the motorway with the Highyways Agency so they can continue, all be it a little late, with their journey. The Highways Agency Officers seemed to be constantly relaying cars back down the motorway to get them on to a road that was moving..
I’m sure there were some tailbacks at Jct14 to the south but I drove from there up to the crash site along the diversion route and it wasn’t any busier than a normal weekday evening.
The real tragedy is that 3 people lost their lives on Christmas Day, families have lost 3 very loved people. The bigger tragedy is Littlejohn gets away with spouting this rubbish.
Updated at 18:40 30 December 2012, tidying up my poor grammar.
Updated 09:15 31 December 2012, adding link to the Custody Sgt, adding line about not being a police officer or HATO and note about geolocation of images