Mother and her three children are killed in car crash that left father and baby critically injured

Eufemia Didonato

Zoe and Joshua Powell with three of their children - Sarah Mak Photography
Zoe and Joshua Powell with three of their children – Sarah Mak Photography

Three children and their mother were killed in a “horrendous” collision when their people carrier “crumbled like a can” after colliding with an HGV.

Zoe Powell, 29, and her eight-year-old daughter Phoebe, were pronounced dead at the scene on the A40 near Oxford on Monday night.

Her son Simeon, six, and daughter Amelia, four, died later in hospital.

The children’s father, Joshua Powell, 30, and their 18-month-old daughter, are in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

The family’s silver Subaru collided with a white HGV near a railway bridge to the west of Oxford at 9.50pm, Thames Valley Police said.

The 56-year-old lorry driver, who suffered minor injuries, is helping police with their inquiries.

Zoe and Joshua Powell with their three elder children
Zoe and Joshua Powell with their three elder children

The Powell family is from Chinnor, Oxfordshire, where they are active members of the Chinnor Community Church, where Mr Powell, a civil engineer, ran a youth group. The children attended the local primary school.

Mrs Powell was a blogger and illustrator who ran her own business and had written extensively about her experiences of being a mother and the “simple joys” of raising a family.

She wrote online: “There are crazy, messy, stressful moments, but they are also scattered through with many beautiful, every day, wonderful moments.

“Things that we take for granted, which just are the way they are – like the cot they are lowered into, the pram we push, the car seat we buckle or the shoes we tie – they move on and change and we look back and realise that those everyday things were beautiful.”

She had published and sold a “Mama book” –  a journal designed to give mothers some “mental space” and the chance to reflect with the everyday demands that she acknowledged could be “overwhelming.”

She also wrote about her “deep love” of books, painting and illustrating the stationary and gifts she sold online. “Everything is brought to life in my home studio, where I often paint alongside one or several of my four children,” she wrote.

A police witness appeal sign on the A40 near Oxford - Steve Parsons
A police witness appeal sign on the A40 near Oxford – Steve Parsons

David Patchett, 36, from Oxford, was the first person on the scene of the crash after hearing a “loud explosion” that shook his narrow boat.

“Other boaters in the area thought it was a sonic boom, it was an epic sound, it was enough to make your heart jump,” he said.

“I grabbed my phone and shoes and ran out at full pelt down the road while trying to dial 999. I knew it wasn’t a good sound.

“The first thing I saw was the lorry on the wrong side of the road and saw the driver was sat there okay. I continued running towards the car, that’s where I could have collapsed to my knees.

“The car was in the middle of the road, it wasn’t just front-end damage it looked like it had been crumpled like a can.  

“While I was on the phone to police, the man regained consciousness and that’s when I started screaming down the phone ‘get someone here now.’”

Neighbours revealed yesterday that the Powell family had suffered “tragedy after tragedy,” having been forced to move out of their home following a devastating house fire a few months ago.

One said: “They were a lovely family. They were renting somewhere else in Chinnor in the meantime because there was a house fire, as you can see the whole house is boarded up. It is a devastating shame.”

Sgt Dominic Mahon said officers were in the very early stages of the investigation into what he described as an “incredibly tragic” and “horrendous” incident.

He appealed for help from the public, urging motorists who had dash-cam footage of the incident or either of the vehicles just beforehand, to contact police.

“We will leave no stone unturned to ascertain what has caused this tragedy,” he said.

At Chinnor Community Church, a cross was erected in the family’s memory.

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