A BRIDGWATER woman died after suffering 'catastrophic' injuries following a tragic crash on the M5 last year, an inquest has heard.

At Taunton Coroner's Court today (Tuesday, January 22), senior coroner Tony Williams concluded the inquest into the death of 29-year-old care worker Elaina Beard who died on February 9, 2018.

The inquest heard that following an initial single car crash, Elaina's car was subsequently struck twice more by other cars.

Elaina managed to escape from the car, but died after being hit by several vehicles on the opposite side of the motorway.

The inquest heard evidence in the form of written statements from multiple eye witnesses, a post mortem, and a report from Avon and Somerset Police forensic collision investigator Niall Fyfe.

The inquest heard that Elaina Beard was driving from her boyfriend's along the M5 northbound when between J25 and J26 at 6.23am, eyewitnesses in a van following Miss Beard's red Ford Ka, say they were set to overtake when her car suddenly swerved in front of them across from lane one to lane three, crashing into the central reservation.

PC Fyfe said CCTV evidence showed Miss Beard's car, which wound up stationary in lane three with no lights, where she appears to be using her phone and approximately two minutes later is struck by a dark blue Mercedes SL 350.

In a written statement, the driver of the Mercedes Geoffrey Smith said: "I was travelling to Bristol Airport with my wife and son.

"I estimate I was driving at between 70-75mph with my headlights on.

"I pulled out to overtake a car in lane two but as soon as I did there was a red car sideways across the motorway, I only realised what it was as I collided with it - I had no time to brake."

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Mr Smith's car went spinning before eventually hitting the central reservation barrier and although the car suffered significant damage, the occupants were fortunate to only suffer minor injuries.

Following this second impact, Miss Beard's Ford Ka was now further along the motorway and came to rest in lane two.

She was then struck again by a Rover 440 driven by Simon Coles with three passengers driving from Tiverton to work in Bristol.

One of the passengers in the rear passenger seat of the Rover, Matthew Goldsworthy, said: "I was trying to sleep when he heard someone exclaim 'Oh No!'

"I saw a car right in front of us and we collided with the rear of that car.

"I was dazed and confused and turned to see headlights coming toward us which hit our car on the passenger side.

"We ended up on the hard shoulder."

Having collided Elaina Beard's Ford Ka, Simon Coles' Rover 440 was hit by an Alfa Romeo driven by a woman with one female passenger.

In this collision three of the Rover 440 occupants suffered serious injuries.

The driver Simon Coles said: "I have no recollection of the incident - the next thing I knew I woke up in Southmead Hospital where the doctor told me I had been in a coma for six days."

Mr Coles suffered several broken ribs and two collapsed lungs, while another passenger suffered a broken neck, ankle and pelvis and a third passenger suffered a severe leg injury.

Firefighters used hydraulic equipment to extricate the Rover passengers from the car.

PC Fyfe said that because Elaina's car had no lights, and there was no lighting in that section of the motorway, Geoffrey Smith, the driver of the Mercedes that first hit Elaina's Ka would have had approximately 0.75 seconds to react to avoid the collision, and research suggests drivers need three to four seconds to react when a hazard is completely unexpected.

He concluded the collision was unavoidable and applied the same logic to the subsequent collisions that resulted.

Miraculously Elaina survived her three high impact collisions, and PC Fyfe says after the final crash, her car was marooned in lane two.

The total length of the crash investigation site was 230 metres.

"Somehow the passenger side of the car was still intact and the door opened normally," PC Fyfe said.

PC Fyfe says Elaina must have clambered from the car, possibly injured and most likely seriously concussed, and climbed over the central reservation onto the southbound side of the M5 seeking safety.

In his report he stated that although she made it across lanes three and two, she was struck by a vehicle in lane one and subsequently several other vehicles, suffering 'catastrophic injuries'.

The post mortem by Dr Amanda Jeffries said there was some alcohol in her system, although it was under the legal limit.

There was also evidence of the drug tramadol, a painkiller, in her system, which the side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness and blurred vision.

PC Fyfe said it was possible this contributed to her concentration level being reduced before she swerved severely in the lead up to the initial crash but said it was impossible to know for certain.

Senior coroner Tony Williams concluded the death of Elaina Beard was due to a road traffic collision.