Miracle no one dead in 100-car pile-up on fog-engulfed bridge
It was "truly miraculous" that no one was killed in yesterday's 100-car pile-up on a bridge in heavy fog, police have said.
Eight people were seriously injured and 35 are in hospital following the crash on the new Sheppey crossing bridge in Kent, which started at around 7.15am.
It then continued for 10 minutes as cars and lorries crashed into each other in visibility that was down to 25 yards with many people – including a family with a nine-month-old child – having narrow escapes.
It is believed to be the biggest accident in fog in living memory with around 200 people seen by medical staff at the scene on the London-bound carriageway travelling off the Isle of Sheppey.
Lives were probably saved because an unidentified quick-thinking lorry driver used his truck to block the entrance to the bridge and stop more cars piling into the crash.
Chief Inspector Andy Reeves, from Kent Police said: "It is truly miraculous. Looking at the extent of the incident, the number of vehicles and people involved, the damage to some of those vehicles, I think we're all very fortunate there were no fatalities."
Mr Reeves said it was too early to say what had caused the accident but the heavy fog, which often shrouds the bridge, and driver behaviour are possible factors.
There were reports of some motorists driving "like idiots" in the conditions before the crash, which completely closed the A249 which crosses the seven-year-old bridge that opened in July 2006.
The unidentified driver who put his truck across the carriageway was hailed a hero by motorists who believe he saved lives.
One of them, Chris Buckingham, told Sky News: "Whoever that guy is, I'd like to shake his hand because he's probably saved lives today."
The scene was full of buckled cars, lorries and even a car transporter as people waited at the side of the road to receive help from the emergency services.
Six people were trapped in their vehicles and a fleet of 30 ambulances and response vehicles rushed to the scene.
Those injured were taken to local hospitals, including Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham where staff cancelled planned surgery for the day to concentrate on those caught up in the crash.
Catherine Ahearne (28) was driving husband Roy and their nine-month-old baby Eva in a Volkswagen Polo on the way to her mother Lenita Kingston's home in Crystal Palace, south east London, when the crash happened. "I think God was on our side," she said.
"There was a man running up the path at the side of the road, waving his arms – that's the first I knew there was a problem.
"I could hear screeching and crashing of cars and pulled to the middle of the road, and stopped. We took Eva out of the car seat in the back and put her in the front with us, in case anything hit us, but thankfully it didn't.
"Someone was definitely looking down on us today."
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 into me and I smashed into the car in front," she said.
"I was really lucky I was not injured."
"The extraordinary thing was the number of vehicles that have been involved and the distance they've been spread over. From our perspective, speaking professionally, looking at some of the damage that you can see here today, it's miraculous that people have not lost their lives, absolutely."
Kent Fire and Rescue Service area manager Martin Adams