Tragic crash on M5
A MALE passenger has been killed and 39 other people were injured when a lorry crashed into the back of a broken-down coach on the M5 motorway in early morning fog.
The tragic smash occured on the southbound carriageway, between junctions three and four in the West Midlands, at around 6am on Saturday morning.
A coach, believed to be carrying agricultural workers to Evesham in Worcestershire, broke down on lane one of the motorway - which was engulfed with thick fog.
The Highways Agency confirmed they put electronic warning signs on the motorway telling motorists about the stranded coach but just 10 minutes later a lorry careered into the back of the vehicle.
The force of the impact sent the coach flying across all three lanes of the carriageway, leaving it resting against the central reservation with the severely damaged lorry embedded into its rear.
Debris can be seen scattered across the carraigeway, which was completed blocked by the smash.
The front of the lorry is completely caved in and the windows towards the rear of the bus are smashed.
Chief Inspector at the Central Motorway Police Group, Carl Flynn, confirmed that a 35-year-old man from Birmingham was killed in the horrifying smash.
He said: "There was 34 passengers on board the coach, a mix of men and women, there were no children.
"Tragically a 35-year-old male passenger from Birmingham has died as a result of this incident and we are in the process of informing his family."
He also confirmed that another male passenger from the coach is in a critical condition in hospital along with the driver of the lorry, who is from the South West.
Mandeep Singh was sitting at the back of the coach when the lorry smashed into it and he confirmed they had been stationary for around 10 minutes before the accident happened.
Mr Singh said: "We are coming from Birmingham. Our bus had broken down here and nearly after 10 minutes a lorry came from the back and hit the bus from the back.
"We are trying to start the bus nearly for 10 minutes but after that the driver called somebody. Suddenly the lorry comes from the back and hits the bus.
"I'm sitting in the back. I was jumping from the bus. Some people are gone and someone is coming from Birmingham to get me.
"Everyone is very scared, some people are crying, some people's legs are broken. I am really lucky."
Eyewitness Penelope Morgan, who drove past the stranded coach minutes before the crash and telephoned police to warm them about the situation, said: "The coach was in the slow lane, the fog was really thick. The lights on the coach were not visible at all, there were no fog lights.
"We were in the middle lane luckily, otherwise we would've hit the coach. The hazard lights were on but you couldn't see them until you were so close.
"I dialled 999 and told the police about it. It was an accident waiting to happen.
"The fog was really bad. You couldn't see your hand in front of your face. It was quite bad, I've not seen fog that bad for some time."
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “On arrival at the scene crews found a coach and a lorry that had been in collision.
“A total of forty adults were assessed and treated on scene. Twenty seven of those have now been conveyed to hospitals around the region including Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, City Hospital, Alexandra Hospital and Sandwell Hospital.
“Unfortunately one patient, believed to have been travelling on the coach at the time of the incident, was confirmed deceased at the scene.”
Emergency services cofirmed the two people seriously injured in the fatal crash were a passenger on the coach and the driver of the lorry.
Communications officer Carol Cole, from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where it is believed the two critically injured people are, said: "We've got five casualties that were brought in by ambulance.
"Two of them are major trauma injuries and two of them are classified as seriously injured. The other one has been described as walking wounded."
The lorry involved in the tragic crash belongs to haulage firm Fowler Welch.
A spokesperson for the company said: "Fowler Welch has had a vehicle involved in a major RTA on the M5. At this stage the facts are not fully known.
"Our thoughts and concerns are with those involved and their families.
"We will be co-operating fully with the police and emergency services to aid them in their investigation."
Beauty-school drop out
SHE might be more at home with make-up and mirrors but this beauty school drop out is taking on men at their own game in her new job as an apprentice PLUMBER.
Pretty Shannon Kelly, from Redditch, Worcestershire, decided to cancel her beauty course plans after working with her plumber uncle, 38-year-old Ian Moorhouse, for pocket money last summer.
The 17-year-old 'girly girl' had planned to study a beauty therapy course alongside her pals but jumped at the chance to switch make-up and hair products for grease and grime when her uncle offered her a permanent job.
And whilst her friends are studying the latest fashion tips or beauty products, hard-working Shannon is getting her hands dirty as she slogs it out on the male-dominated work sites.
"I could have gone on to do a beauty therapy course at college like my friends, but when I was working with my uncle in the summer holidays to earn a bit of money, I started to enjoy it.
“I really enjoy the banter on site and I give as good as I get. The atmosphere is better than sitting in a boring college class all week.
“I am a very girly girl away from site. I've always loved getting dressed up and doing my make-up and I go out with my friends every weekend.
"If someone is coming round after work then I have a quick shower and have to do all my make-up quickly."
In order to get proper qualifications, Shannon studies Plumbing and Heating at Worcester College of Technology every Monday before working with her uncle's Shire Heating and Plumbing firm from Tuesday to Friday.
And the teenager is certainly showing a keen attitude to the job - as she is forced to get the bus from Redditch to Worcester every morning to meet her uncle, because she hasn't passed her driving test yet.
The plucky worker admits she kept her new job secret from her friends at first but isn't ashamed to show off her plumbing skills now she knows she can cut it in the macho world.
"I did keep it a secret from my friends for the first few months, I think I just wanted to see if I could make a living out of it first," added the pretty 17-year-old, who lives at home with her parents.
"They were shocked when I told them and they laughed a bit but now they are just jealous I'm earning more money than them.
"I'm the only girl on my course but I get on better with the other guys than I do with girls to be honest. They respect me and realise that I'm really keen to do well.
“I really like the look on people's faces when I turn up, and I am able to make their homes nice and cosy again.
“Eventually, I want to become a fully qualified plumber and start my own business. I think it is a real advantage being a female in this trade.“
Her proud uncle, and now boss, says he could not be more proud of the hard work his niece has put in since she joined the company - after admitting he did have initial worries.
"I was worried at first because I'm over-protective of her," said Ian, who has worked in plumbing for 25 years.
"But Shannon can take care of herself, to be honest. I am really proud of how everything is working out.
"All the lads on the sites love her to bits and have taken her under their wing. There's certainly no foul language anymore, we must work on the cleanest sites in building.
And the experienced plumber says his latest apprentice has more drive and enthusiasm for the job than most men he has employed in the past.
“It is not easy work. It can be very hard and heavy labour with long days and nights. Shannon gets the bus every day to meet us so its a ten-hour day for her.
"And sometimes we even work nights so she will work till 5am with the rest of us and she never moans.
"I know lads who have worked for me in the past who didn't want to get out of bed but she is the opposite.
"I have never heard of a woman plumber in the 25 years I've been doing this."
Lawyers touting for divorce
FAMILY campaigners have slammed a firm of no-win-no-fee solicitors who are touting for divorce business from people who are 'unhappy with their partners'.
Lawyers2you have been accused of 'exploiting the vulnerable' after putting up a special pop-shop in the bustling city centre of Birmingham - offering the thousands of passers by free advice if they are unhappy in their relationships and seeking divorce.
An advert placed in the busy shopping parade says: “Unhappy with your partner? Speak to us in confidence to discuss your options."
The company, which has offices in Birmingham and Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, says it offers 'swift and sensitive' service to help clients through divorce, separation or child custody battles.
But the advert has been slammed as insensitive and looking to exploit those in vulnerable situations by pushing them towards legal action rather than help them solve their marital problems.
Senior Birmingham Tory councillor Peter Douglas Osborn, who spotted the advertising board, said: “It seems the family is now under attack from some members of the legal profession.
“We must ask whether touting for business amongst the saddest part of life is encouraging people to end their relationships and do long term damage being done to children.“
Marriage guidance counselling service Relate also said it was surprised at the tone of the advert.
Chief executive of Relate Birmingham, Ruth Levesley, said: “If people are unhappy with their partner they should be talking to their partner first, and then come to a counselling service like Relate.
“They should not be talking to lawyers first.
“We offer support and advice to help people get through their relationship problems."
The busy shopping parade is passed by thousands of commuters every day as they make their way to and from the city's offices.
One of them Jeremy Allan, a 37-year-old accountant who walks past the Lawyers2you stand every day, said: "I was shocked when I saw the stand for the first time. It's not unusual to see law firms like this in shopping centres but to see them touting for divorce business seems to be going too far.
"My wife and I have the odd argument but I would never dream of discussing our relationship with a stranger who is standing in a shopping centre all day.
"The guys standing there might not even be qualified, you don't know who you're talking to and who they will pass the information on to.
"I haven't seen many people stopped there and I don't think people would be stupid enough to use it."
But a spokesman for the Solicitors Regulation Authority defended the advert saying: “There are strict rules on what solicitors can and can't do in terms of advertising as laid down in the Code of Conduct, and we would investigate any suspected breaches of the code that are reported to us.
“However, this advertisement does not sound as though it breaches the code as it merely points out that confidential advice is available, and therefore it's just highlighting the services that solicitors offer.
“If anyone has any concerns about it that they want to raise with us, then they can get in touch.“
Two years ago a London law firm sparked outrage when it offered divorce advice vouchers for mistresses to give their married lovers for Christmas.