4 dead as M-way crashes cause chaos

Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Four people, including three men travelling in the same car, have been killed in separate motorway crashes.

Sections of both the M1 and M40 were closed by police after a 40-car pile-up in Oxfordshire and a collision between a double-decker coach and a stationary car in Bedfordshire.

Bedfordshire Police said the three men travelling in the car, which had stopped on the hard shoulder, were pronounced dead at the scene near Flitwick.

No-one on the coach, which was heading north from the Kent area, was hurt in the crash at about 6.45am, but a fourth occupant of the car was taken to hospital in Oxford with serious injuries.

Meanwhile, emergency services said at least one person had died and another was fighting for life after a multi-vehicle pile-up on the fog-bound M40.

A further six people were seriously hurt and up to 45 more suffered minor injuries in the collision just before 8am.

Fire crews, police and air and road ambulances rushed to the scene, between junctions 9 and 10 of the motorway.

The crash happened near the busy designer outlet shopping centre in Bicester, and the AA said the area was busy with traffic as families hit the roads for a getaway as schools are on their half-term break.

The motorway is closed northbound between the junctions, while two southbound lanes remain shut along the same stretch, and drivers are being advised to find alternative routes.

Pictures posted on Twitter show cars at a standstill in thick fog on the motorway, while drivers and passengers stood on the carriageway.

A South Central Ambulance spokeswoman said: “It is quite a major collision. We were called at 7.48am to reports of a multiple road traffic collision on the M40, junctions 9 to 10 northbound.

“I understand that there are about 30 vehicles involved. We are currently assessing in excess of 30 patients.

“We have a lot of resources on the scene – ambulances, our helicopter ambulance, rapid response vehicles, our doctor and our hazardous area response team.

“Fire and police are also at the scene.”

AA president Edmund King said: “AA Roadwatch reports severe congestion north and southbound on the M40 between junctions 8 and 10.

“There is associated gridlock on the A34 towards Kidlington and on local roads around Middleton Stoney.

“Traffic on the M40 has been busier than normal for a Saturday morning due to the beginning of half-term holidays. It is likely that severe congestion in the area will continue for several hours.”

The accident hampered travel between the South East and the Midlands and northern England at a time when thousands of West Ham fans were travelling to watch their team play West Bromwich Albion.

Meanwhile, drivers also faced delays as two Boeing 747 fuselages were driven along the M4 and M5 from an airfield in Gloucestershire to a scrapyard in Herefordshire.

Speaking at the M40 crash scene in front of debris scattered on the road, Chief Inspector Henry Parsons, head of Thames Valley Police’s roads police team, said the crash was an “extraordinary” and unusual accident.

He said it is a “serious blessing” that more people were not killed in the pile-up.

Officers are investigating what caused the crash, and believe thick fog was a contributory factor.

Mr Parsons said: “The crash involved over 30 vehicles. Sadly, as a result of the collision, one person has died, one person is critically ill in hospital and six people are seriously injured.

“Six have minor injuries and over 40 other people have been involved in the scene.

“It is very extraordinary. We haven’t been hit by an accident this severe for many years in Thames Valley.

“It does very much touch you personally. It is a horrible scene and ultimately one person has lost their life and several are seriously injured as a result. It is awful, whatever way you dress it up.”

The family of the person killed have been informed.

Commenting on what caused the crash, Mr Parsons said: “It would be too early to say with any certainty, but clearly the fog will play a major part in our investigation.”

A red car at the front of the M40 pile-up was almost entirely crushed in the collision, while other vehicles stood scattered with their front bumpers crushed.

Zara Smith, 31, described the crash as “carnage” and said she saw a “sea of metal” in the road ahead.

Ms Smith was travelling from Croydon in south London to Stockport with her fiance for a family holiday when they saw dozens of ambulances and police cars whistle past as traffic came to a standstill.

She said: “It was really thick fog and difficult to see that far in front so no one really knew what had happened. We were there for an hour and a half and then police diverted us down a slip road.

“It was at that point that the fog started to rise and a mile ahead you saw this carnage.

“There was one large lorry which had jackknifed and was across three lanes of the motorway, and all these cars ahead of it. It looked like a sea of metal.

“There was a lot of debris. We hadn’t been aware of how close we actually came to it because of the thick fog.

“It was really dense fog. For about half an hour driving before the accident we were going in and out of patches of fog. By the time we stopped we could only see one or two cars in front.

“The crash was shocking. We had stopped for coffee and petrol on the way and you think ‘God, if we hadn’t have stopped we could have been in it’, but you can’t think that way.”

Police confirmed the person who died in the M40 crash was a man.

Published: Saturday 14th February 2015 by The News Editor

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