A pile-up involving more than 100 vehicles on a bridge in heavy fog has left eight people seriously injured and 60 suffering minor wounds in what witnesses described as “carnage”.
No-one is thought to have died in the crash on the new Sheppey crossing bridge in Kent, which started at around 7.15am and continued for 10 minutes as cars and lorries crashed into each other in visibility that was down to 20 yards.
It was initially reported that as many as 200 people were injured in the crash but that figure was scaled back later this morning.
Lives were probably saved because an unidentified quick-thinking lorry driver used his truck to block the entrance to the bridge and stop more cars piling into the crash.
A driver involved in the incident, Chris Buckingham, told Sky News: “He was going the other way and what he managed to do, which has probably saved lives, is he’s gone down to the end of the carriageway, gone across the roundabout and actually blocked off the road so no more cars could actually enter the dual carriageway before the emergency services got there.
“Whoever that guy is I’d like to shake his hand because he’s probably saved lives today.”
There were reports of some motorists driving “like idiots” in the conditions before the crash which completely closed the A249 that goes over the bridge.
The scene was full of buckled cars, lorries and even a car transporter as people waited at the side of the road to receive help from the emergency services.
It was reported that people were trapped and a fleet of 30 ambulances and response vehicles went to the scene, with some casualties receiving treatment at the roadside.
Witness Martin Stammers (45) from Minster, told Kent Online: "It's horrific. I've never seen anything like it in my life.
“All you could hear was cars crashing. We got out of our car and it was eerily quiet, with visibility down to just 20 yards.”
A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "There are no fatalities but ambulance crews are dealing with a large number of walking wounded casualties. Firefighters have used hydraulic cutting equipment to release five people from their vehicles.
Those injured were being ferried to local hospitals including Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.
The uninjured and the walking wounded were taken down from the bridge on the Sittingbourne side.
Kent Police said there were collisions at the top of the bridge and at the foot of the approach to it.
“Officers are urging motorists to avoid the area but if a journey to the island is essential, the old Kingsferry Bridge remains open but expect long delays,” a spokeswoman said.
South East Coast Ambulance Service said it was dealing with a major incident and deployed its hazardous area response teams (Hart) to the scene.
Student Jaime Emmett (19) was driving through the fog when she became involved in the pile-up.
“There was a man at the side of the road saying to stop. I stopped in time but a van smashed into me and I smashed into the car in front,” she said.
“I was lucky I was not injured. It was all quite surreal when it happened.”
Ms Emmett said the fog was so thick that you could only see a few cars in front but added: “All I could hear was the cars smashing in front of each other and I could not know how far ahead the accident was.
“It was so foggy I could literally see two or three cars in front of me — that was it. Then I could literally see smashed cars everywhere and a lorry had smashed into the central reservation as well.
Saying she was “still quite shocked” as she stood amid the aftermath, she noticed that the ambulances were on the scene straight away.
She said: “By the time I got out of my car there was already an ambulance there. There was a man being taken off in a stretcher.
“I could see that everyone was shocked but they were just checking to see that everyone else was OK.
“It was surreal and it might have been worse but people were going slower because it was quite foggy.”