M5 crash victim Emma Barton will never forget the moment she first opened her eyes five days after the horrific pile-up last month.
And neither will her fiancé, Chris Burbull, who was by her hospital bedside, willing her to survive. As her eyes locked into his, 19-year-old Emma saw his joy that she had woken from a coma. But in a second she saw it change to anguish. And then the words she dreaded came tumbling out. “Do you know what has happened?” he said. “I am sorry… but your dad and your sister didn’t make it.”
Chris, 23, watched helplessly as a single tear rolled down Emma’s cheek before she sank back into sleep. “My first reaction was that I didn’t want to know anything,” says Emma, who had lost her mother when she was only 13. “I didn’t want to hear anything more.”
Today the couple speak for the first time of the hell of being caught up in Britain’s worst M-way crash in 20 years. Chris recalls the moments leading up to the terrifying 34-vehicle pile-up as he drove a friend’s Ford Fiesta into a wall of fog. He was told that after the crash he had run badly injured across the blazing carriageway calling for help amid the screams of victims after a lorry ran into the back of the Fiesta. He reveals how police relentlessly grilled him about what happened – and how in the aftermath he is battling guilt over an accident that was not his fault.
Grief-stricken Emma tells how her first reaction when shown pictures of their crashed car was: “How did I get out?” She also reveals how she clings to her memories of her father Michael, 67, and sister Maggie, 30, two of seven people killed in the Bonfire Night tragedy. Her dad died of chest injuries. Maggie suffered neck, chest and abdominal wounds. Emma knows it is only a miracle she didn’t die alongside them. She suffered 20 separate injuries, any of which could have been fatal. Doctors expected her to be in hospital for a year.