Bestival coach crash near Hindhead Tunnel kills three
Three people were killed and a number of others seriously hurt when a Merseyside-based coach crashed into a tree near a tunnel in Surrey.
The coach was heading north on the A3 when it crashed near the Hindhead Tunnel, at 23:50 BST on Monday.
It was carrying people who had been to the festival Bestival, on the Isle of Wight, when it crashed between the tunnel and the Thursley exit.
Injured passengers have been taken to a number of different hospitals.'Significant impact'
Three people, including the driver, were declared dead at the scene.
At the scene
The coach itself is concealed under a large tent.
Officers wearing white forensic suits have been entering and leaving the tent at short intervals throughout the morning.
The focus at this stage of the police investigation is the delicate operation to remove the bodies of those who died.
Once the bodies have been taken from the wreckage the vehicle can be examined more closely, as Surrey Police try to piece together what happened.
Officers stressed that weather and road conditions were fine at the time of the crash.
A fourth person was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital with life-changing injuries, said police.
Eight people are being treated at St George's Hospital and Kings College Hospital in London and East Grinstead Hospital in West Sussex.
Surrey Police said many of the other passengers hurt in the crash, all aged between 22 and 28, had been released from hospital and were on their way home.
No other vehicles are thought to have been involved in the crash, involving a Merseypride Travel coach.
Insp Richard Mallett said the vehicle had sustained a "significant impact" in the crash, which has been declared a major incident.
"I understand the road was dry. We cannot see any reason that the road conditions would have had any effect on what occurred," he said.
The road was closed in both directions and Surrey Police, Surrey Fire and Rescue and South East Coast Ambulance Service attended the scene, along with crash investigators.
The southbound carriageway was reopened at about 09:00 BST.
David Hannell, owner of Merseypride Travel, said: "Myself and the company offer our heartfelt sympathy to all the families of the passengers involved.
"We ourselves are devastated. I've been up all night worried sick about what's been happening."
Mr Hannell said a parent of one of the passengers called him at 04:00 BST to tell him about the crash.
He said the driver was semi-retired and had been with the company for six months.'Devastating time'
"He was ideal for us because his sister lived in Portsmouth so he had somewhere to stay," he said.
"So it wasn't as if he had to drive down the day before, he was already there and according to his sister he was well rested."
He said this was the firm's first serious accident in 20 years.
Surrey Police said it was working with the Merseyside force and the coach firm, to identify all passengers and notify relatives.
Jerry Kirkby, Assistant Chief Constable of Surrey, said: "This has been declared a major incident. Our thoughts remain with the relatives of the dead and the injured at this time."
Officers were carrying out a "thorough search of the scene including the coach and the surrounding area", according to Surrey Police.
A spokeswoman for South East Coast Ambulance (SECAmb) said: "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."
A casualty helpline has been set up by Surrey Police for anyone concerned about people travelling on the coach, on 0800 056 0154.
In a statement, the organisers of Bestival, which was held at the weekend, said: "This is devastating news.
"Our thoughts are with the relatives of those affected. We are currently liaising with Surrey Police to establish the facts."