3 Killed In Coach Crash On A3

Three people were killed and others were left seriously injured when a coach returning from Bestival on the Isle of Wight overturned after hitting a tree on an embankment.

Emergency services were working at the scene after the coach, which was returning to Merseyside following the Bestival event on the Isle of Wight, left the A3 in Surrey at 11.50pm last night between the Hindhead tunnel and the exit for Thursley.

No other vehicles were believed to have been involved.

Three people aboard the full 51-seat coach were declared dead at the scene and a fourth passenger was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital with life-changing injuries, Surrey Police said.

Other passengers, some of whom have serious injuries, were taken to the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey, St George's Hospital in Tooting, King's College Hospital in London, Frimley Park Hospital and Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.

The road was closed in both directions and Surrey Police, Surrey Fire and Rescue and South East Coast Ambulance Service all attended the scene, along with collision investigators.

The coach is understood to have been operated by bus company MerseyPride and Surrey Police are working with their counterparts at Merseyside Police, as well as with the company, to identify the passengers and notify relatives.

Other passengers were taken to a rest centre which was set up nearby by Waverley Council.

Surrey Police Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby said: ''This has been declared a major incident and we are working with our colleagues from the other emergency services and other partner agencies to provide a co-ordinated response in line with agreed protocols.

''Our thoughts remain with the relatives of the dead and the injured at this time and we are working very hard to notify their next of kin.''

The road was expected to remain closed for several hours and diversions were put in place. Motorists were asked to avoid the area until the road reopened.

Inspector Richard Mallett, speaking at the scene to Sky News, said the coach had been full.

''We are dealing with a major incident, a tragic major incident, the coach has gone off the road and had a significant impact with a tree, I think that is the best way to describe it,'' he said.

''The bodies are still trapped inside the vehicle. As you can imagine it is a very delicate operation to remove them.

''With all due respect to them, we need to get them out properly.''

He added: ''We are confident that there is no-one left in the vehicle alive. Our colleagues from the fire and ambulance service with their specialist teams have been through the vehicle. It is a body recovery operation at this point here.''

Speaking of the wounded, he added: ''Some have suffered significant and life-changing injuries.''

He said he could not give details about the people on board the coach.

A Surrey Police spokeswoman added: ''Officers are carrying out a thorough search of the scene including the coach and the surrounding area.''

A3 coach crash

A casualty bureau number has been set up and people concerned about passengers on board the coach should call 0800 056 0154.

Surrey Police said the southbound carriageway of the A3 reopened following the crash.

A statement said: ''Closures remain in place on the northbound carriageway between the Hindhead Tunnel and Thursley and it is likely to remain closed for several hours.

''Diversions are in place and motorists are asked to avoid the area until the road can be re-opened.''

Surrey Police later confirmed the coach had been returning from the Bestival event. She said the driver of the coach was among those killed.

South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb)said that 50 people from the coach were taken to hospitals in the area.

''Three people were pronounced dead at the scene and a total of 50 patients, some of whom have serious injuries, have been taken to hospitals across the region,'' the statement said.

''Following the first call received by SECAmb at approximately 11.50pm, a major incident was declared. SECAmb sent a large number of clinicians and vehicles to the scene, including both of its hazardous area response teams.

"SECAmb's patient transport service also provided support and SECAmb also received assistance at the scene from London Ambulance Service, St John Ambulance and the Red Cross.

''Our thoughts are with the families of those who have lost their lives and those who are injured.

''We would like to praise the professionalism of our clinicians throughout this incident.

"Our crews worked quickly and effectively with their fellow emergency service colleagues to attend to those in urgent need of treatment in very challenging conditions.

''We would also like to praise the efforts of our staff in our emergency operations centres who not only organised SECAmb's response to the collision but also ensured we were able to continue responding in a timely manner to other emergencies in the region.

''SECAmb would also like to thank the voluntary sector and London Ambulance Service for their support throughout the incident.''

It is understood that the organisers of Bestival are liaising with police over the incident.

The walking wounded from the crash were taken to St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey, where 23 were treated and the majority have now been discharged, a spokeswoman for the hospital said.

Five casualties were taken to the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford and a spokeswoman said that two remain there receiving treatment.

The organisers of Bestival said: ''This is devastating news, our thoughts are with the relatives of those affected by this tragic incident.

''We are currently liaising with Surrey Police to establish the facts.''

Mr Mallett, updating reporters at the scene, said: ''The injuries range from life-changing injuries - some people were unconscious when they were taken away from here.

''We believe some people might lose limbs and certainly there are some life-changing injuries amongst the survivors.

''The priority is to get the people out of the coach and then we can really begin to look at forwarding the investigation.

''We don't think that the road conditions or the weather were a factor in this.''

Asked how long the coach had been on the road, he said: ''We understand that it left the Isle of Wight festival so we are less than an hour from Portsmouth where they come across.

''So less than an hour of this journey. As to what the previous was, we don't know. Again, we need to make sure that we get the people out properly and then we can start looking at things like tacho charts and forwarding the investigation.''

He said police had spoken to a ''couple'' of witnesses and their accounts will be taken into consideration during the investigation.

''Every survivor was taken to hospital, then some were taken after that to a local reception centre. I understand that some have been collected and taken home,'' he said.

Eileen Hannell, the wife of coach company owner David Hannell, said today the family were shocked and sad.

She said: ''There's nothing we can say because my husband doesn't know that much.

''I was coming back from holiday and he picked me up at the airport this morning and said, 'I've got some sad news'.

''He had a phone call from the police at 2.30am and was told there were two people in hospital and three people dead.''

Mrs Hannell, who lives with her husband in Runcorn, Cheshire, declined to identify the driver but said he had worked for them ''for quite a while'' although she had never met him.

She said they had run Merseypride for 10 years.

''Nothing like this has ever happened before,'' she added.

''As soon as he heard he went into the office and was there all through the night. My husband is busy taking phone calls and trying to find out what's happening - we just don't know.

''It's awful. We are all shocked and still trying to take it in. It's very sad.''