Three people have been killed and 50 injured, some of them seriously, after a coach returning from a music festival careered off a road and hit a tree.
Emergency services were working at the scene following the crash on Monday night when a coach from the Merseyside area left the A3 near Hindhead in Surrey and hit an oak tree on an embankment.
The coach was returning in the direction of London with festivalgoers from the Bestival event on the Isle of Wight when it left the road at a bend between the Hindhead tunnel and the exit for Thursley at 11.50pm.
Three people were killed, including the driver of the coach and all 50 survivors from the crash were taken to hospital, some of them with life-changing injuries, Surrey police said. No other vehicles are believed to have been involved.
The northbound section of the road was still closed on Tuesday afternoon and Surrey Police said the bodies of one man and one woman were removed from the coach. A third body is yet to be recovered.
Inspector Richard Mallett, of Surrey Police, said they do not believe that road conditions or the weather were a factor in the crash.
Casualties were taken to 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 in Surrey and Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.
One passenger was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital.
The coach is understood to have been operated by the company Merseypride Travel and Surrey Police are working with their counterparts in Merseyside, as well as with the company, to identify the passengers and notify relatives.
Some passengers were taken to a rest centre set up nearby by Waverley Council.
Speaking outside the Merseypride Travel depot in Speke, Liverpool, owner David Hannell said:
Further to the news of one of our vehicles being involved in a tragic accident on the return journey from the Isle of Wight festival, myself and the company offer our heartfelt sympathy to all the families of the passengers involved.
We ourselves are devastated. I've been up all night worried sick about what's been happening.
He described the vehicle as a 51-seat "exec coach" which was 16 years old.
He named the driver only as Colin and said he had spoken to the driver's sister who lives in Portsmouth. He said that the family is devastated and that the driver's sister is being "kept in the dark".
The driver was semi-retired and was with the company for six months, Mr Hannell said.
– Merseypride Travel owner David Hannell
He was ideal for us because his sister lived in Portsmouth so he had somewhere to stay. So it wasn't as if he had to drive down the day before. He was already there and, according to his sister, he was well rested.This is the first serious accident Merseypride has had in 20 years, he said.The company has cancelled school jobs because his drivers are not in the right frame of mind. We're all devastated.
– Organisers of Bestival
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.
A casualty bureau number has been set up and people concerned about passengers on board the coach should call 08000 560 154.
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