Police are piecing together Tauya Marengereke’s last moments before the horrific 6AM crash on Sunday between junctions Seven and Eight of the southbound M6 motorway near Walsall, West Midlands.

His hired Ford Fusion ploughed head-on into a Peugeot 406 with four occupants. Three men in the Peugeot died from their horrific injuries while a fourth was said to be “walking wounded”.

On Monday, a Marengereke family spokeswoman, speaking by telephone from Brighton, said they were devastated.

“He was the most reliable driver you could want behind a steering wheel,” she said. “He has driven for four years in this country and knows all the motorways. He has driven us from Brighton to Scotland and back, so it’s really hard to understand what happened here.”

Tauya, 27, had sat his final exam for an Aerospace Engineering degree at the University of Liverpool on Friday.

His family said he went to a party in Manchester on Saturday. He left the party just after midnight on Sunday morning, intending to stop first at a friend’s house in Milton Keynes before visiting his girlfriend in Reading.

Police officers have visited the family in Brighton to brief them on the accident.

The family spokeswoman added: “His last call was to his friend at 05:05AM. The crash happened at 05:55AM. Police say he STOPPED at a lay-by for 30 minutes before making a u-turn to head north on a southbound carriageway. He understood the motorway rules very well and all this is just out of character.”

A stretch of motorway – around ten miles from central Birmingham – was closed in both directions for several hours after the crash, causing widespread congestion for holiday weekend traffic.

It has been revealed that police tried to intercept Marengereke before the crash after drivers warned of a silver Ford Fusion driving on the wrong side of the motorway.

Inspector Mark Fullwood, of the Police Central Motorway Group, revealed: “It must have happened just moments before officers got there.

“We had just been told a vehicle was going the wrong way and were trying to find it when the tragedy occurred.”

Surjit Singh-Rai, 40, who lives a few yards from the crash scene, said the noise of the impact woke him and he heard terrified screaming.

He said: “Normally I’ll sleep through anything, but the massive banging sound woke me up straight away, even though we only had the window slightly open. It almost sounded like an explosion.”

Marengereke is the second Zimbabwean driver in just over a year to cause a deadly crash by driving on the wrong side of a UK motorway.

Last year, Njabulo Nyathi, 46, was jailed for five years at the Basildon Crown Court and branded "stupid" by police after he got behind the wheel while drunk and failed to spot no-entry signs on the exit slip from the London-bound A13.

He crashed into another motorist, Sam Matkin, 22, who died almost instantly.

Nyathi was found to have 244mls of alcohol in his bloodstream. The legal limit is 80ml.

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