Thousands of motorists were stranded on the Midland motorway network most of Sunday after two separate crashes including one in which a woman missed being impaled on a wooden stake by inches.
The collisions closed part of the M42 for more than 12 hours and, as heavy rain lashed the region, people heading for Bank Holiday events were stuck in jams tailing back to the M40.
The accidents, which resulted in four people being taken to hospital, happened within four hours of each other on the M42, between junctions 3a and 2, Redditch and its junction with the M40, south of Solihull.
In the first, a tanker carrying 70 gallons of diesel collided with a car, which ended up facing oncoming traffic, causing a fuel spillage that was exacerbated by heavy rain and led police and Highways Agency officials to close the southbound carriageway shortly after 9am. A couple and two children who were in the car were unhurt but said to be seriously shaken, as was the lorry driver.
At about the same time a silver Peugeot car careered off the motorway, landing on the embankment on its roof. The female driver suffered head injuries, as the vehicle's roof caved in, while one male passenger suffered a suspected back injury. Both were taken to the Alexandra Hospital, in Redditch, Worcestershire.
Then about three hours later a woman narrowly missed being impaled by a stake from a wooden fence in the second crash, which happened at about 12.05pm on the M42 southbound between junctions 3 and 2.
The stake pierced the driver's door of the red MGF sports car, stopping just inches from the motorist's body.
West Midlands Ambulance incident support officer Ian Ritchie said: "One of the stakes went through the driver's side door but fortunately went underneath the woman.
"There is no doubt that the woman has been incredibly fortunate. Had the stake been just an inch or two higher, it might have been a very much more serious incident.
"She did, however, suffer a head injury and the doctor on the air ambulance anaesthetised her at the scene before she was flown to the trauma centre at Selly Oak Hospital."
A man in the car was also injured in the accident. He was taken by ambulance to the same hospital. The combination of heavy rain and accidents led to significant tailbacks, which meant many motorists were stranded for hours.
Birmingham Post sports writer James Peacock was stuck in the traffic jam for nearly four hours and as a result missed the European Challenge Cup rugby final between Bath and Worcester, at Gloucester's Kingsholm ground.
"I set off early because parking is always a bit of a problem, so I was trying to get to Gloucester by 10.30am for a noon kick-off," he said.
"But as soon as I got on to the M42 I hit this tailback, which had been caused police closing the carriageway after a crash, and I was there from 9.32am to 1.10pm.
"However there was no evidence of any emergency vehicles, or any signs warning of the chaos, but I had my laptop with me so was able to look on the internet for more information.
"The commentary from the match said it was a full house of 18,000 people, so I guess I must have been the only one stuck in the traffic."
MeteoGroup weather forecasters predict yet more heavy rain for the Midlands by tonight , in a repeat of last year's washout Whitsun weekend, when 50mm of rain fell overnight.
Organisers of Birmingham Pride's annual gay festival were forced to move many of their events into nearby clubs yesterday, including the Nightingale, as the rain persisted.
In Herefordshire, literature lovers heading for the Guardian Hay Festival, in Hay-on-Wye, were faced with the spectacle of fire crews pumping "a large quantity of flood water" away from the site. Wooden pallets were laid on the grass for visitors.