Three die and 50 hurt in festival coach crash; DRIVER AMONG DEAD AFTER VEHICLE CAREERS OFF ROAD.
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. The coach, from Merseyside, was returning on Monday night in the direction of London from the Bestival event on the Isle of Wight when it left the A3 road at a bend near Hindhead tunnel, Surrey, and the exit for Thursley.
The driver of the coach was one of the three to die in the crash, which happened on an embankment at 11.50pm.
All 50 survivors from the accident were taken to hospital, some of them with life-changing injuries, Surrey Police said. No other vehicles are believed to have been involved.
Officers said the bodies were removed from the coach.
Inspector Richard Mallett, of Surrey Police, said they do not believe that road conditions or the weather were a factor.
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.
Insp Mallett said: "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 injuries range from life-changing injuries - some people were unconscious when they were taken away from here.
"We believe that 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 (on the ferry). So less than an hour of this journey.
"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."
Police had spoken to a couple of witnesses and their accounts will be taken into consideration during the investigation, said Insp Mallett.
"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.
A Surrey Police spokeswoman said: "Officers are carrying out a thorough search of the scene, including the coach and the surrounding area."
Speaking outside the Merseypride Travel depot in Speke, Liverpool, company 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 said he had spoken to the sister of the driver, who is understood to be Colin Daulby and who was described by neighbours in Warrington as an "all round good guy".
He said the family is devastated and that the driver's sister is being "kept in the dark". The driver was semi-retired and had been with the company for the past six months.
"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," Mr Hannell said.
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 are all devastated," he said.
Organisers of Bestival said in a statement: "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."
* Emergency services at the scene of the coach crash on the A3 near Hindhead in Surrey, where three people died on Monday night