A3 Coach Crash: It Could Have Been Overloaded

12 September 2012, 06:19

Police are investigating what led to a coach overturning on its way back from a music festival, leaving three people dead and 50 injured.

The vehicle was returning to Merseyside from the Bestival event on the Isle of Wight when it careered off the road and hit a tree near Hindhead, Surrey, just before midnight on Monday.

The coach driver was one of those killed after the vehicle left the A3 on a bend between the Hindhead tunnel and the exit for Thursley and hit an oak tree on an embankment.

All 50 survivors from the crash were taken to hospital, many of them with serious ''life-changing'' injuries, Surrey Police said. Eleven casualties remained in hospital last night.

No other vehicles were involved and officers are working to establish whether the coach may have been overloaded as part of their investigation, as despite there appearing to be 53 people on board, the vehicle only had 51 passenger seats.

Last night the badly-damaged coach was removed from the scene as accident investigators continued to examine the crash site. The road was reopened at about 11.30pm.

A3 coach crashPolice said neither the road conditions nor the weather was thought to be a factor in the crash and the coach had only been on the road for around an hour after leaving Portsmouth.

Police have now been in contact with the families of the three people who died in the accident.

The coach driver, named locally as Colin Daulby, was described by his neighbours in Warrington as an ''all-round good guy''.

Tom McLoughlin said:

''We're all in shock. This is a close-knit street and everyone knew Colin.

''I had known him for 20-odd years and spoke to him only the other day.

''He was a very good neighbour, an all-round good guy.''

The coach was operated by the company Merseypride Travel. Its owner David Hannell said he and his staff were ''devastated'' and offered their ''heartfelt sympathy'' to all the families of the passengers involved.

He described the vehicle as a 51-seat ''exec coach'' which was 16 years old.

One of those believed to be seriously injured was Juice FM DJ Chris McGee, but the Liverpool radio station refused to comment last night.

John Drudge said his team from the British Red Cross Fire and Emergency Support Service (FESS) helped tend to around 35 to 40 people with less serious injuries at the scene.

He estimated them to be aged between 18 and 25 and said many were ''traumatised'' by the incident.

Bestival organisers 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.''

Last night Surrey Police Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby said:

 ''This has been a tragic day for the families of the deceased and a traumatic incident for all those involved.

''Surrey Police has been working tirelessly to keep people informed and it will be some time before the full facts have been established.

''My thoughts are with those who have suffered as a result of this incident and I would ask people to respect their privacy.''

A casualty bureau number has been set up and people concerned about passengers on board the coach can call 08000 560 154.