Family ‘lost everything’ in house fire months before horror crash, friends say

·4-min read

Tributes have been paid to members of a “delightful” young family who were killed in a car crash months after an electrical fire at their home saw them “lose everything”.

Close friends described how 29-year-old Zoe Powell “did a lot for the community”, and that her death alongside three of her four children this week has been “devastating”.

Mrs Powell, from Chinnor in Oxfordshire, died with daughters Phoebe, eight, Amelia, four, and six-year-old son Simeon when the family’s Subaru people carrier collided with a heavy goods vehicle on the A40 to the west of Oxford shortly before 10pm on Monday.

Mrs Powell’s 30-year-old husband, Josh, and their infant daughter survived but remain in the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Thames Valley Police Sergeant Dominic Mahon said: “Although their conditions are still serious, they are showing signs of improvement and are expected to make a recovery.”

One of the Powells’ grief-stricken neighbours said the tragedy came after their family home caught fire in June.

The woman, who asked not to be named, told the PA news agency: “They stayed here after the overnight fire – there was smoke pouring from their house.

“It’s incredibly sad, it was a hard enough year for them regardless, and now this… it’s just incredible.

Multiple deaths in Oxford car crash
Zoe Powell with her husband Josh and children (Sarah Mak Photography/PA)

“It’s rather raw and it’s horrendous. They were all absolutely lovely – the children were a delight, they were bouncy, bubbly, just really happy children.

“Their mum and dad were lovely too, and they thought the world of their kids and would have done anything for them.

“I can’t imagine how any of the family are feeling right now.”

Multiple deaths in Oxford car crash
The Powell family home in Chinnor, Oxfordshire, which was damaged by fire in June (Steve Parsons/PA)

Maureen Dyroff, who knew the Powells since Phoebe started at Jack and Jill pre-school in Chinnor where she was a supervisor, said the family had “lost everything in the fire” and had been living in temporary accommodation nearby ever since.

She added: “They were a beautiful family and it was such a wonderful honour to work with the three older children.

“We are all in deep shock and mourning over such a sad loss of so many members of that beautiful family.”

Multiple deaths in Oxford car crash
Reverend Dr Jacky Barr at St Andrew’s Church, Chinnor, Oxfordshire, described the Powells as ‘just a lovely family’ (Steve Parsons/PA)

Another neighbour added: “She (Mrs Powell) was amazing, a great neighbour and a lovely person.

“She did a lot for the community, not just through the church.

“The whole family would do anything for anybody.”

Mrs Powell, who lived in Chinnor since the mid-2010s but was previously from Sheffield, described herself online as a “wife, mama, maker”.

She regularly updated a parenting blog until May 2019 ahead of the arrival of their fourth child.

The family were regular visitors to churches in the area, where dozens of floral tributes were laid on Wednesday.

Multiple deaths in Oxford car crash
Floral tributes laid in front of a cross erected outside Chinnor Community Church (Steve Parsons/PA)

The Rev Dr Jacky Barr, from St Andrew’s Church in Chinnor, said the tragedy was a “loss to us all in the area”.

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.”

Multiple deaths in Oxford car crash
Mother-of-four Zoe Powell, who was previously from Sheffield, died alongside three of her children on Monday (Sarah Mak Photography/PA)

A book of condolence has now been opened at the church.

A close friend of the Powells laid a teddy outside the Chinnor Community Church, which the family also attended.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “They were just such a lovely family, and I watched her (Zoe) going through her pregnancy and having all the children.

“I can’t explain – it’s just so devastating… heartbreaking.”

“It’s such a lovely church, we were like a big family.”

Thames Valley Police said they received multiple calls from members of the public at 9.50pm on Monday following the crash.

The HGV driver, a 56-year-old man, suffered minor injuries.

Sgt Mahon said: “No-one has been arrested in connection with this investigation, and the driver of the HGV has co-operated fully with our investigation throughout, providing a witness statement to officers.”

Anyone with information or dashcam footage has been asked to contact police.