TWENTY years may have passed since the day five children were killed when a speeding motorist ploughed into them, but residents say they will never be forgotten.

It was Friday, September 13, 1991, when Paula Barnes, 15, Belinda Brown, 19, Paul Carr, 16, Sheree Lear, eight, and seven-year-old Ian Lilley were playing on the grassed area off Akers Way when driver Shaun Gooch lost control of his car at high speed and crashed into the group of youngsters.

The tragedy shook the community and provoked fury among campaigners who had long been calling for a lower speed limit and other safety measures on the road.

Linda Strange, 60, lived next door to the family of Sheree at the time of the crash.

She said: “It was a very sad event and it took people a long time to get over.

“I can’t believe it was 20 years ago – my son is now 30 and I remember I had only been back in the house about 10 minutes after taking him to Cubs in Rodbourne, when we heard this bang.

“If I hadn’t taken him to Cubs he would have been out there playing with the other children.

“My dad went out to help but it was too late. I remember Sheree’s dad was in a terrible state, completely beside himself cradling his little girl. She had a little daisy in her hand, she had been picking daisies before it happened.”

The bench where the youngsters were playing was removed after the accident and the speed limit was lowered from 40mph to 30mph.

Gooch, 24, of Penhill, had been driving his car at a speed exceeding 90mph seconds before the crash. He was sentenced to five years in jail for causing death by reckless driving.

The families of the victims have since moved away from the area, but a memorial plaque erected at the scene has been tended to by locals ever since the tragedy.

Linda said: “I think it is mainly local people who tend to the memorial now, I know the bench was taken away after it happened so the children didn’t have to walk past it and be reminded of what happened every day.”

Linda’s mum Violet Strange, 88, said: “They were such a lovely family, I remember Sheree had been doing cartwheels in her front garden just before.

“Since that awful day they have built pathways and cycle paths but people still speed down this road.”

Another resident of Akers Way, Phyllis Milligan, 72, said she will always remember the events that unfolded that afternoon.

“I think everybody around here remembers it very well,” she said.

“My children were all in their 20s at the time but they knew some of the children. It was very sad.

“The traffic has not got any better since, if anything, it has got a lot worse. The speed at which some of the cars come down here is just terrifying.

“I think speed bumps would help the situation. We’d like to see something done – sometimes it is worse than the M4 along here, and in the mornings and evenings it is just solid bumper to bumper.”

Ivy Hancock, 89, has lived on the road since 1951.

She said: “I remember we were driving to bingo when it happened – we got to the scene and the wheels on the car were still spinning.

“There were lots of children around, the road was blocked and there was so much traffic.

“I can’t believe it happened 20 years ago. The traffic has got so much worse since – we need some crossings.”

And it isn’t just the residents in the area that remember the events that unfolded that evening.

For now-retired traffic cop Paul Bowerbank the tragedy is still a vivid memory.

An experienced officer of 13 years at the time of the incident, Paul was a 37-year-old constable with the traffic department when he was called to the horrific scene.

The father-of-two recalls the moment he arrived to find paramedics treating the casualties and the families rushing to see their loved ones.

“It was gruesome,” he said.

“The children were already in the back of ambulances and all the parents had rushed down.

“I shouldn’t have been working that shift as I was on nights but we were called in early because of shortages on the evening crew.

“I walked through the door and was thrown a piece of paper and told to get to Akers Way. I did not know what we were going to find.

“My main role was to investigate the accident. It involved getting the marks left on the road before it got dark, which was a huge benefit to the investigator who would take over later on.

“There were two survivors from the accident and I’ve seen the families since. It affects their lives to this day, they still bear the scars.”