A Shetland family of eight had a narrow escape this week when a stolen car crashed into their van on an English motorway during a high-speed police chase.
Charlotte and Hansen Black and their six children, aged 10 and under, emerged from the terrifying accident near Stoke almost unhurt but lost their VW Transporter van, a trailer and its contents and the children’s bicycles, which were mangled and strewn over the carriageway.
The Dunrossness family were returning to Scotland after Mrs Black had run in the Abingdon Marathon, near Oxford, on Sunday.
They were travelling north to Ayrshire on Tuesday afternoon, cruising up the M6 with Mr Black at the wheel when they fell victim to the West Midlands crime scene.
Mrs Black said: “All of a sudden there was just this bang into the back of us and we started going sideways down the motorway. It was a hell of a fright.
“It just seemed to go in slow motion. Hansen was fighting to control the car. We slid one way and then the other and he managed to bring it to a stop. A truck that was behind us managed to stop and avoid hitting us.”
The stolen car had initially hit into the central reservation at high speed after swerving to avoid a Stinger-type tyre-shredding device that police were attempting to deploy from a patrol car at the side of the motorway. The thief was also being chased by an unmarked police car after his car was spotted by motorway cameras.
The car bounced back across the road and hit the Blacks’ small trailer, causing them to spin out of control. The stolen car ran up the side embankment before landing in front of the family and coming to a rest. The driver got out and tried to run off but was eventually caught by the police.
Mrs Black said the borrowed trailer was “smashed to smithereens” while the back doors of the van were staved in, breaking the back windows and showering the children with glass. The bike carrier on the back was ripped off and the bikes scattered over the road.
The Blacks were obviously shaken by the experience and the children were crying. But they were unhurt apart from slight seatbelt marks to Mrs Black and their oldest son Dylan, eight, suffering a bang to his head. He was looked over in an ambulance at the scene.
She said: “It’s your worst nightmare. We have obviously been seriously unlucky to be in that situation but we just feel so lucky that we are all okay.
“When you’re going sideways down the motorway like that you just think you’re not going to get out of this in one piece.”
With the motorway closed the Blacks and their wrecked van were taken to Stoke by two breakdown lorries. They were told the van was likely to be an insurance write-off. She said it appeared the trailer had cushioned the impact of the collision otherwise it could have been much worse.
However, their nightmare did not end there. While the police had been “fantastic”, she said their insurance company had been less so, failing to come to their rescue with any haste and seemingly unable to grasp the difficulties of getting a big family back to a place like Shetland.
Although they eventually got put up overnight in a Holiday Inn on a Stoke industrial estate the company failed to sort out replacement transport for them the next day, leaving them stranded in the hotel lobby without a room while trying to sort out their affairs by mobile phone.
Despite that, and the prospect of a second night stuck in Stoke, Mrs Black remained upbeat. “We’re alright,” she said. “We’re pretty fed up but just lucky to be in one piece I think.”
Yesterday they were making their way to Aberdeen by mini-bus.