A blogger and her three children who were killed in a horror car crash had to flee their £320,000 home months earlier in their pyjamas as it burned down in a freak electrical fire.
Zoe Powell, 29, died alongside daughters Amelia, four, and Phoebe, eight, and son Simeon, six, after their silver Subaru collided with a HGV on the A40 near Oxford on Monday night.
Mrs Powell’s childhood sweetheart and railway engineer husband Joshua, 30, and their 18-month-old daughter were rescued from the wreckage.
They were today still fighting for their lives at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The driver of the HGV, a 56-year-old man, suffered minor injuries. There have been no arrests over the crash.
It emerged today the devoted family had faced anguish months earlier after their home burned down, destroying many of their possessions.
Mr and Mrs Powell had rushed their four young children out of their home, wearing nothing but their pyjamas during lockdown after a blaze engulfed all the rooms in the house.
Neighbour and fellow young mother, Alice Palmer, said today: ‘It was only a few months ago that their house burned down, everything has gone, all of their memories were taken. It was an electrical fire, essentially they got out in their pyjamas and not much else, but they were planning to move back in.
‘Josh is now potentially going to wake up with his young daughter to care for and no possessions or memories. I just cannot comprehend it, they were so religious, part of the community and the church. I have been crying all morning.’
Neighbour Brenda Newell, who lived opposite the family’s home, said: ‘The fire was during lockdown this year, I was just off to work at the time. It looked like it ripped the whole house apart, but I went to work early that morning at a care home in Thame.
‘I don’t think it was arson, it was an accident I believe, you don’t get any trouble like that down here. I used to say hello to the family in passing, they seemed like a lovely family, the kids were quiet. It’s just one of those things, it’s devastating.’
Talented illustrator Mrs Powell – a regular churchgoer – had managed to save some treasured belongings which they had put in their temporary accomodation.
Their home had been particularly important to them as their most recent child had been born there.
Zoe Powell, 29, with her daughter Phoebe, eight, smile for the camera in a poignant picture
Zoe Powell, who died in the crash, with Phoebe, eight, Simeon, six, Amelia, four, and her husband Joshua
Emergency services rushed to the scene at 9.50pm on Monday to reports of the crash, which took place near a railway overbridge. Pictured: The child victims
The Powell family home was still boarded up today with smoke and fire damage still visible
Mrs Powell, who had been married for ten years, had told followers of the art and cards business she ran alongside her parent’s blog : ‘It’s the littlest things that make a house feel somewhere familiar and ‘yours’.
‘I rescued this butterfly from our study (the door was closed and its largely unaffected by fire/ smoke- unlike the rest of the house).’
The couple had also regularly given to charity and their joint Skylark and Hare company had donated money to good causes every year.
Almost a year ago Mrs Powell had said: ‘There is so much brokenness in this world, so many who we know or know of who are struggling in one way or another but it’s a reminder that this isn’t our true home.
‘And while we walk the darkest paths he is always there beside us and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, in our forever home. Psalm 23 is the first long chunk of scripture I memorised and it really has been so pertinent in so many ways and so many times in my life. If you’re walking through something I hope it’s a comfort for you .’
The Rev Dr Jacky Barr, from St Andrew’s Church in Chinnor, where Mrs Powell and her family were regular visitors, said the tragedy was a ‘loss to us all in the area’.
Her husband Joshua, 30, and their 18-month-old daughter were rescued from the wreckage and are today fighting for their lives at John Radcliffe Hospital in the city
Pictured are the floral tributes outside the Community Church in High Street Chinnor today
Emergency services rushed to the scene at 9.50pm to reports of the crash, which took place near to a railway overbridge to the west of Oxford. Pictured: The scene today
She said: ‘They used to come to our church. Zoe and her children would come along to one of our after-school sessions.
‘They were just a delightful family. The children were always very engaging.
‘They were just a lovely family, they really were.
‘This has come as such a shock and loss to us all in the area.’
Emergency services rushed to the crash scene at 9.50pm on Monday after the crash, which took place near a railway overbridge.
David Patchett, 36, who lives on a narrow boat close to the crash site, was the first to arrive at the scene.
He described hearing a ‘horrendous noise’ which shook through his home, adding others in the area ‘thought it was a sonic boom’.
He said: ‘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.
‘The emergency services turned up very quickly. It was a horrifying thing to see and my first thoughts were nobody had survived, that’s how bad it was.
‘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”.’
Friends had spoken how the Powell family has suffered ‘tragedy after tragedy’ after they were forced to move away from their home in Chinnor following a devastating house fire a few months ago.
A neighbour 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.’
Blogger Mrs Powell ran a website dedicated to her experience of motherhood and sold a diary, The Mama Book, designed to support other parents.
The mother-of-four said on her The Mama Book website: ‘The mama book is a journal and community that was born out of my own need for a space – a physical place to write and focus and reflect on motherhood.
‘When I created this journal for myself I was feeling overwhelmed by the everyday demands of having three young children.
‘One day in the middle of the craziness of having three three-and-unders underfoot I filled a notebook with all the thoughts about mothering that were filling up my head.
‘Since then I have used it daily, tweaked it and refined it. It is the space I wish I had been able to give myself when my first baby was born, and a space that I am continuing to use through each season of mothering.’
Friends today said the Powell family has suffered ‘tragedy after tragedy’ after they were forced to move away from their home in Chinnor following a devastating house fire a few months ago. Pictured: Tributes in Chinnor today
The village where the Powells lived was in deep shock today as news of the tragedy emerged
Mrs Powell had an English Literature degree and said she had a ‘deep love for books, stationary and florals’.
On June 6, 2018, she wrote a post titled ‘these are the good old days’, which talked about her life and how she treasured it.
It went: ‘I don’t want to miss this beautiful life that’s right here, because I am thinking about what’s next or remembering what it was like when they were at a different stage or longing for certain challenges to move on.
‘These are the good old days. At every stage, photos from a few years ago, a year ago, a few months ago, even, remind me that these days are the best.
‘These are the good old days- it just doesn’t always feel like it the time. Seeing myself, my everyday, through the lens of time passed- gives me perspective and clarity on these days right now.
‘These are the good old days. There are crazy, messy, stressful moments, but they are also scattered through with many beautiful, everyday, 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.’
The village where the Powells lived was in deep shock today as news of the tragedy emerged.
A cross was erected outside Chinnor Community Church in memory of the family who visited weekly.
It said: ‘The cross has been put up in our garden as a focal point for anyone who would like to remember Zoe, Phoebe, Simeon and Amelia Powell, who lost their lives in a road traffic accident on Monday night.
‘As Christians we believe that death is not the end of the road, but just a bend in the road. The road winds only through those paths through which Christ himself has gone.’
Colourful bouquets were scattered underneath the cross for the Powell family, with loving tributes attached.
Officers today remained at the crash site and the A40 was closed in both directions for a ‘considerable’ period of time while the investigation continued.
Senior investigating officer Sergeant Dominic Mahon, of the Serious Collision Investigation Unit based at Bicester, said the crash was an ‘absolute tragedy’.
He said: ‘We are in the very early stages of our investigation into this incredibly tragic incident that has resulted in the deaths of four people from the same family.
‘I would appeal to anybody who was driving in the area at the time of the collision and witnessed what happened to please contact 101, or make a report online, quoting reference number 43200321914.
‘I would also urge anybody who has dash-cam footage of the incident or either of the vehicles just prior to the incident to please not share this publicly, but contact police with this detail.
‘The next of kin of the family have been made aware and are being supported by specially trained family liaison officers.
‘Our officers and colleagues from the other emergency services were dealing with an extremely upsetting scene, and I would like to thank them for the work that they carried out overnight.
‘Our officers remain at the scene and the A40 will remain closed in both directions for a considerable period of time while this investigation continues.’