Two hundred people were injured as more than 100 vehicles were involved in a major pile-up in misty conditions on a bridge today.
Eight people were seriously injured on the new Sheppey crossing bridge in Kent.
The accident occurred in thick fog with some witnesses saying that visibility was down to 20 yards in places and that motorists were ‘driving like idiots’ prior to the pile-up.
The scene on the bridge was a mass of tangled cars, lorries and even a car transporter, with reports saying that the crash went on for 10 minutes as cars collided with each other.
Witnesses said that some motorists were driving without headlights just before the crash.
Martin Stammers, 45, from Minster, said: “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.
“I was very, very, lucky. I was the last car out of it, if you like. As I came to the top of the hill, there were about five cars already smashed up, one was across my carriageway. I had to hit my brakes hard.
“From then on, all you could hear was the screeching of car tyres and the thudding, which was endless. It must have been going on for five to 10 minutes. You could hear hear the screeching, you could hear the lorries thudding into cars, you could hear glass breaking, there was nothing we could do.
“Even after the police turned up, you still heard further down the bridge – a quarter of a mile, half a mile away – cars still going into the back of each other. It was horrendous.”
He said drivers on the opposite carriageway thanked him for waving for them to slow down, saying they would have been involved in more serious collisions had he not done so.
Mr Stammers added: “As you went further up, there were cars in the air, there were cars under lorries, there were people laying on the floor, it was just horrendous. If you were travelling at 30mph you would have still hit the car in front of you because the visibility was down to 10 yards.
“I just can’t believe how close . . . We were five seconds from, I would say, near death. Very, very, very, lucky, I just hope everyone else there is OK. I can’t explain how you’re standing there in the quiet and all you can hear is this thud and the glass breaking. It’s just silence, that’s all you can hear – a screech and a thud, a screech and a thud. Absolutely horrific.”
A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “There are no fatalities but ambulance crews are dealing with a large number of walking wounded. Firefighters have used hydraulic cutting equipment to release five people from their vehicles.”
Kent Police said there were collisions at the top of the bridge and on 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 spokesman said.
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 in to 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 in to the central reservation.”
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. I could see that everyone was shocked but were just checking to see that everyone else was OK.”