The decision to close a motorway for 26 hours to negotiate with a man threatening to jump from a road bridge was today defended by police - who also hit out at ‘vile’ drivers who complained about the delays it caused on Twitter.
Thousands of drivers were caught in miles of tailbacks and up to five hours of delays when the M42 motorway was closed in both directions.
The carriageway was shut at 12.45pm on Saturday and remained closed until around 3pm yesterday when the man, who has not been identified, was finally talked down from the A38 road bridge over M42 junction one, near Bromsgrove.
Officers said the man had been detained under the mental health act and was taken to a hospital in the area ensuring he had ‘access to the appropriate support he needs.’
A number of drivers took to social networking site Twitter to vent their fury at being caught up in the traffic chaos and urging the man to jump from the bridge.
Their action was blasted by police bosses, including Assistant Chief Constable Gary Morgan, who branded them ‘vile’.
The senior officer tweeted:
Unfortunately for travellers #M42 still closed. Officers striving to resolve. No quick solution. If there was, rest assured it would be used— ACC Gareth Morgan (@ACCGarethMorgan) November 17, 2013
Acknowledge inconvenience & frustrations #M42 closure. The intolerant,hateful & 'don't you know what you're doing' brigade should be ashamed— ACC Gareth Morgan (@ACCGarethMorgan) November 17, 2013
No shortage of armchairs or experts to fill them giving advice &/or being vile about people/things they know nothing about #M42— ACC Gareth Morgan (@ACCGarethMorgan) November 17, 2013
Chief Superintendent Martin Evans, head of the Central Motorway Police Group, apologised to all motorists and residents who had experienced significant disruption. But he defended the closure and the actions taken by police.
“The threat of harm to both the individual concerned and to vehicles driving on the M42 was so significant there was no alternative but to close the motorway,” he said.
“It had to remain closed until this incident had run its course. We strive to resolve such matters as quickly as possible but our number one priority is to put the safety of everyone concerned first.
“There are many who will be asking why we could not bring this to a conclusion more quickly and they will be wondering about the methods we have at our disposal.
“I would like to reassure them the only realistic way of resolving this was through a great deal of negotiation and patience.”
Chief Supt Evans added: “Some comments on social media have not been particularly helpful where people are providing suggestions without being aware of the full facts of the case.
“I am satisfied the tactics we put in place to ensure the safety of this man were appropriate.”
And he praised some people who had posted for their messages of understanding and compassion for the man.