Three people died and others were left seriously injured when a coach coming back from Bestival overturned.
The vehicle was returning from the Isle of Wight and travelling northbound on the A3 near Hindhead when it hit a tree on an embankment.
The accident happened at 11.50pm yesterday when the vehicle left the road between the Hindhead tunnel and the exit for Thursley. No other vehicles are believed to have been involved.
Six patients have been taken to the Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, Portsmouth - none with life threatening injuries.
Officers from Hampshire Constabulary’s Roads Policing Unit were sent to help Surrey Police deal with the accident.
Three people aboard the 51-seat Merseypride Travel coach were declared dead at the scene and a fourth passenger was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital with life-changing injuries.
The coach company has offered ‘deepest condolences to the bereaved’ after the accident.
Its driver was one of the people killed in the accident, Surrey Police confirmed.
The road was closed in both directions shortly after the incident and Surrey Fire and Rescue and South East Coast Ambulance Service attended the scene, along with crash investigators.
Surrey Police said the southbound carriageway of the A3 has reopened following the crash.
The coach is from the Merseyside area and Surrey Police is working with its counterparts at Merseyside Police, as well as with the coach company, to identify the passengers and notify relatives.
Passengers are being taken to a rest centre which has been 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.’
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.’
The northbound section of the road is expected to remain closed for the several hours and diversions are in place. Motorists are asked to avoid the area until the road can be reopened.
Signed diversion routes are in operation with all northbound traffic advised to follow the diamond symbol and all southbound traffic advised to follow the triangle symbol roadside signage.
Other passengers, some of whom have serious injuries, have been 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 and Frimley Park Hospital.
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.’
Hampshire Chief Constable Alex Marshall said: ‘There is a very sad footnote to Bestival in which we believe the coach crash (last night) in Surrey where people lost their lives was in fact a coach travelling back to Merseyside from Bestival.’
Mr Marshall said Hampshire police, which sent officers to the scene of the crash last night, will do all it can to assist Surrey Police in its investigation as required.
The 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.’
A casualty bureau number has been set up and people concerned about passengers on board the coach should call 0800 056 0154.