The family of a popular Birmingham headteacher who died when a van carrying beer barrels careered across the central reservation of the M5 and smashed into his car believe stronger crash barriers could have saved his life.
Daniel Slinn, who was head of Calshot Primary School, in Great Barr, was killed in the head-on collision near Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, on May 27.
The 44-year-old’s wife Lisa was treated in hospital for two days after suffering ligament damage to her hip in the crash. She has now questioned whether her family could have been spared the tragedy if the Highways Agency replaced steel barriers in the middle of the motorway with concrete guards.
“We don’t know yet what part the crash barrier played, but we want to find out,” she said. “My brother-in-law certainly believes concrete barrier on the central reservation could have saved him.”
Shadow Transport Minister Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, has backed the Slinn family and said he was “absolutely convinced that concrete safety barriers save lives”.
Mr Slinn was driving his family home after a half-term holiday in the West Country when a Volkswagen van ploughed through the central reservation from the opposite side of the road.
Both of the van’s occupants, husband and wife Harbinder Singh Dosanjh aged 36 and Manjit Kaur Dosanjh, 35, from Coventry, were pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr Slinn, who was driving the family’s Mitsubishi Colt, suffered multiple injuries and died before paramedics had chance to intervene.
A further 18 drivers and passengers were treated for minor injuries after the van’s cargo spilled on to the road.
Senior police investigating Officer Sgt Tony Wallace described the scene as one of the worst he had to deal with.
More than 100ft of the central reservation was destroyed in the smash and two lanes had to be completely resurfaced.
Mr Slinn had been writing a children’s book before he died which his family now plan to finish.
Mrs Slinn said: “Daniel was a wonderful husband and father. He was a very positive person and he was a huge part of the lives of very many people who have so many good things to say about him.”
Beth, aged 16, said: “He was determined to provide the very best for his family and everyone around him, all of whom will remember the gifts of happiness, humour and love he gave us.
“He was always a lot of fun, liked to think he was a great dancer, and made the best sandwiches for us to take to school every day.
“He was often worried that he embarrassed my sister and me, but of course he never did. We liked the same music and enjoyed spending time together as a family.”
Carrie, aged 11, who was treated in hospital for three days for a fractured pelvis, added: “He was a very selfless man who always cared for us and everyone he met.
“Dad had been teaching me how to play cricket with him and he loved being in the garden and building sandcastles on the beach.
“He was in the middle of writing a children’s book, which we are going to finish off for him. It could be the next Harry Potter.”
A spokesman for the Gloucestershire Coroner said that inquests on all three people who died would be held as soon as reports on the accident were completed – around the end of the year.
“It is a complex case and extensive reports are being carried out,” he said. The Highways Agency accepts concrete barriers reduce the likelihood of vehicles crossing the central reservation and colliding with on-coming traffic.
It has a programme to replace steel barriers when they “reach the end of their useful life”, which is about 25 years after being installed.
But Mr Goodwill said the Government was not giving the programme the priority it deserves.
“At the present rate it will take more than 200 years to replace all the motorway barriers - let alone the other dual carriageway main roads,” he said. “If safety isn’t put as a priority then sadly we will see more of the casualties we have seen recently.”