Emergency services at the scene of A38 crash, in which Melissa Barnham, inset, died along with 14-year-old Daniel Lang
Traffic tails back on the A38 as rescuers clear the crash debris. Right: The tractor and trailer at the side of the carriageway after the crash, near Ashburton. Police said the tractor driver was uninjured
AN horrific bank holiday crash on one of the Westcountry's busiest roads claimed the life of a teenage boy and a woman yesterday.
Melissa Barnham, 24, died along with 14-year-old Daniel Lang in the crash on the A38, near Ashburton, South Devon, yesterday morning.
Daniel's stepfather, Gordon Taylor, brother Michael, 17, and 26-year-old stepsister Joanne Taylor were also airlifted to hospital with "potentially life-threatening" injuries after the crash, which closed the road for hours and caused traffic chaos.
The parents of Ms Barnham, a team leader at Gala Bingo who lived in the St Judes area of Plymouth, last night issued a short statement saying: "We are devastated at the tragic loss of our beautiful daughter Melissa. We would appreciate the time to be left to grieve at this most difficult of times."
Tributes also started appearing on websites, including her Facebook profile.
Linda and Tasha Kinsman, from Devonport, Plymouth, wrote: "R.i.p mel you will be sadly missed by all our family. You were so caring and such a kind girl. Our foughts our with your mum and dad. We will miss you so much. Knowing we wont see you again breaks our hearts. You were too young to be taken from your family. Miss you and love you so much!"
Stuart Barnham, Melissa's uncle, on behalf of the family thanked people for their kindness at a difficult time. "Thank you to all who have offered kind words and sympathy," he wrote.
"Thank you to the special people who attended this accident, while going about their daily lives they strive to help us in our hour of need often only to be met by criticism. I understand that we easily immerse ourselves in our own little world and are quick to find fault and point the finger of blame. We have suffered a devastating loss today, yet still our thoughts are with the family of the child that passed away and the people who survived."
Dozens of emergency service workers were called to the scene at the westbound Ashburton junction at about 8.45am yesterday after a crash between a red Suzuki saloon car and a tractor pulling a trailer.
They described their work in extricating the bodies from the wreckage as "very traumatic".
Terry Phillips, from the South West Ambulance Service, said the survivors were very badly hurt. "Every one of them was potentially life-threatening because of the impact of the crash," he said.
The three survivors were "conscious but not fully alert" and were taken for a CT scan on arrival at hospital. Mr Phillips said: "It was very traumatic." "
All five of the Suzuki passengers had to be cut free from the wreckage by firefighters from Ashburton, Bovey Tracey and Buckfastleigh. Joanne Taylor was driving the car, while Gordon was in the back with his two stepsons. Daniel was in the centre seat. None is believed to be related to Ms Barnham. The tractor driver was uninjured, said police.
Police were contacting next of kin yesterday and a full investigation was being carried out throughout the day into the possible causes.
Inspector Andy Hamilton said from the scene yesterday morning: "There are 15 policemen at the scene, collision investigators and scenes of crime officers."
The car was registered to an address in Plymouth, said police. The tractor was registered to an owner in Totnes.
Sgt Steve Walker, the senior investigating officer, said yesterday: "At this stage, we are unsure what has happened but there has been some sort of collision with the tractor and trailer, and the car has spun out of control."
Police are appealing for any witnesses of the crash to come forward and is asked to contact them on 08452 777444.
The crash caused traffic mayhem throughout yesterday with hundreds of motorists stuck in tailbacks. It came at the end of the first major weekend of the tourist season, with thousands of people who descended on the Westcountry for a short break returning home. The A38 was closed in both directions until about 1pm when the eastbound carriageway was reopened. The westbound carriageway opened around 6pm.
Hundreds of drivers tried to take a detour through Ashburton which quickly became jammed.
Drivers were diverted away from the A38 and the increase in traffic on surrounding roads had knock-on effects in Newton Abbot, Totnes and on Dartmoor.
Three people were injured in two further separate car accidents yesterday.
Firefighters went to the first incident, at Tresillian, near Truro in Cornwall, at 5.15pm and involved one car.
Two people were hurt and were looked after by paramedics before being taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske.
The second crash occurred less than an hour later on the A39 at Carnon Gateway roundabout, also near Truro, at around 6.25pm. Again, the incident involved only one car. Firefighters helped release the man from the vehicle before he was taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital.