TWO men died in a three-car-collision on the M65 early on Saturday morning sparking renewed calls for motorway lighting to be switched back on.
Best friends Mohammed Iqbal and Mazafer Iqbal were travelling home along the eastbound carriageway when the crash happened at 2.15am.
The pair, who had been travelling in a blue Peugeot 106, had been working in a branch of Chunky Chicken in Skelmersdale.
Police said the Peugeot, a silver Renault Clio and a black Citroen C2 were all travelling towards Burnley, between Junctions 9 and 10 when they collided.
Two of the vehicles were left overturned and the motorway was closed for around 10 hours as police investigated and removed the wreckage.
Paramedics and police were called but 48-year-old Mohammed from Burnley and 47-year-old Mazafer from Brierfield — friends for 30 years — were both pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the silver Renault Clio was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital with minor injuries, while the driver of the black Citroen C2 was uninjured.
Suzanne Ereira and her husband Keith had been travelling in the car immediately behind those that had collided.
The couple were en-route to visit family in Burnley from London.
Suzanne, 24, made the 999 call. She said: “I saw two bodies lying on the hard shoulder.
“My husband opened his door right next to where they were lying and at first, we didn’t realise they were men, we thought they were blankets or bags that had been thrown into the air.
“It was pitch black and we could hardly see anything. It’s just awful.
“It had been dry all the way up but when we hit that stretch of motorway it was just so dark.
“I was driving and I started to feel bits of glass and debris under the wheels but I still couldn’t see anything.
“All of a sudden, I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting a blue car.
“I could not see it until I was right up next to it.
“We could easily have been in the smash too, if we had been in our old car, we would have been because it just wouldn’t have stopped in time. I have never been so frightened in my life.”
This latest accident has renewed calls to switch the lights on the M65 back on.
The Highways Agency said the lights from Junction 7 to 10 were permanently switched off in 2011 as part of its scheme to save around 350 tonnes of carbon every year.
Kirsty Tipping, 41, lost her fiancee, Mark Burgess, in November, after he died in an accident near Junction 8.
Kirsty said: “This news has completely knocked me for six and has brought back all the memories of what happened to Mark.
“I just wish they’d do something about it. It’s just all about money.
“How many lives will it take before they switch the lights back on?”
Yesterday, the families of “loving fathers” Mohammed and Mazafer were too distraught to talk.
But a spokesman for the families, said: “Both families are shocked and devastated by what has happened.
“No one can believe it.
“We are religious families and we were looking forward to celebrating Eid together and now we find ourselves thinking about burying family members on the holy day.
“It is just unbelievable.
“The loss of both men has left a huge hole in two families. They were both loving fathers.
“We are trying to find comfort in our faith at this time.”
The families also thanked the emergency services for their help at the scene.
Father-of-four Mazafer ran a branch of Chunky Chicken in Skelmersdale, owned by his brother who also owns a restaurant of the same name in Nelson.
He was a close friend of Pendle councillor, Mohammed Iqbal, who paid tribute to him.
He said: “It’s a tragic and devastating loss.
“Mazafer was a larger than life character. Always friendly, full of fun and liked by everyone.
“We went on a pilgrimage together to Saudi Arabia and got to know each other very well.
“I knew both men and they were both religious and cared for their families and friends a great deal.
“It is unbelievable that they are gone.”
He added: “Many people are unhappy that the motorway is unlit. I can’t say what happened and I can’t say that the lack of lighting was to blame but what I do know is that this is not the only death on that particular part of the motorway. I think Lancashire County Council and Burnley Council are going to have to look at what is going on there because something is going wrong.”
Mohammed Iqbal worked at Sleep Sound Beds in Accrington but was known to help out his friend of 30 years in his takeaway from time to time.
Friends of Mazafer also took to his Facebook page to leave tributes to the Liverpool FC fan.
Phill Nuttall said: “Mazafer only called me last week to see how I was and how the girls were.
“Such a lovely man who had a lot of time for people.
“I’m glad to have met you and that you called me your friend.”
Anastasia Jenna Ashcroft said: “Really can’t believe I’m actually writing this. In total shock.
“It’s hard to get your head round something so devastating happening to such a decent person.”
Ronnie Edwards said: “Rip Maz. What an inspirational man you were.”
Councillor Eileen Ansar also paid tribute to the two men. She said: “They were both lovely men with lovely families.
“They will be missed.”
Police are appealing for witnesses to help them ascertain how the crash happened and have made no arrests.
Anyone with information should call police on 101.