At least six serious injuries in 100 car pile up in England
A 100-vehicle pile-up on a bridge in heavy fog has left at least six people seriously injured and 200 suffering minor wounds in what witnesses described as "carnage".
No-one is believed to have died in the crash on the new Sheppey crossing bridge in Kent, which started at around 7.15am and continued for 10 minutes as cars and lorries crashed into each other in visibility that was down to 20 yards.
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.
A driver involved in the incident, Chris Buckingham, told Sky News: "He was going the other way and what he managed to do, which has probably saved lives, is he's gone down to the end of the carriageway, gone across the roundabout and actually blocked off the road so no more cars could actually enter the dual carriageway before the emergency services got there.
"Whoever that guy is I'd like to shake his hand because he's probably saved lives today."
There were reports of some motorists driving "like idiots" in the conditions before the crash which completely closed the A249 that goes over the bridge.
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.
It was reported that people were trapped and a fleet of 30 ambulances and response vehicles went to the scene, with some casualties receiving treatment at the roadside.
Witness Martin Stammers, 45, from Minster, told Kent Online: "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."
A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "There are no fatalities but ambulance crews are dealing with a large number of walking wounded casualties. Firefighters have used hydraulic cutting equipment to release five people from their vehicles.
Those injured were being ferried to local hospitals including Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.
The uninjured and the walking wounded were taken down from the bridge on the Sittingbourne side.
Kent Police said there were collisions at the top of the bridge and at the foot of 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 spokeswoman said.
South East Coast Ambulance Service said it was dealing with a major incident and deployed its hazardous area response teams (Hart) to the scene.
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 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 into the central reservation as well.
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. There was a man being taken off in a stretcher.
"I could see that everyone was shocked but they were just checking to see that everyone else was OK.
"It was surreal and it might have been worse but people were going slower because it was quite foggy."
Mr Stammers also told Sky News: "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 as well, I just had enough space to get through.
"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 was cars under lorries, there was 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 was five seconds from, I would say, near death. Very, very, very, lucky, I just hope everyone else there is OK."
He went on: "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. Horrific, absolutely horrific."
Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey Gordon Henderson said he would be talking to the authorities about the accident and he said he had concerns about the design of the bridge's lighting.
"Today my concerns must rest solely with the people that have been injured on the bridge. Today is not the time to ask questions but later I will be asking questions of the authorities about the accident.
"I have had concerns in the past, particularly about the level of lighting on the bridge, but, until we understand the cause of the accident, and what was a contributing factor, I do not want to make any further comment."
At the scene, motorists caught up in the accident milled around in hot sunshine waiting to get their cars back.
Cliff Montgomery, 53, was driving his Mercedes from his home on the Isle of Sheppey to his job as a project engineering manager at Medway Hospital in Gillingham when he was in a group of vehicles trapped between a pile-up in front of him and another one behind.
He said: "I was very lucky not to be involved in it. I was in the outside lane when vehicles in front of me braked and cars were crashing.
"There was another pile-up behind the group of cars I was travelling in. All I could do was brake, stop and await further instructions.
"It was very foggy, in places you could only see 30ft in front of you. Cars only need to be going 30 or 40mph for braking distances to become an issue when it's like that.
"When you see the state of vehicles being brought off the bridge on transporters, you have to think it's very lucky that no one was killed.
"My car is at the top of the bridge and I'm hoping to get it back mid-afternoon."
Mr Montgomery had more luck when he heard that his 19-year-old son, who was travelling a few minutes in front of him, saw the first crash, but managed to avoid it, and was able to go on to his job as a trainee engineer in London.
AA president Edmund King said "This particular crash on the Sheppey Crossing was probably made worse due to the unique layout of the bridge.
"We suspect that some people drove into the carnage descending from the apex of the bridge with next-to-no visibility or warning. "
He went on: "We are calling for a review of safety on the A249 Sheppey Crossing to look at the speed limit, lack of matrix warning signs and lighting.
"This is a wake-up call to drivers to always expect the unexpected, especially when visibility is so poor and it is impossible to see a long way ahead due to the layout of the road."
Roads Minister Stephen Hammond said: "I would like to praise the hard work and dedication of all the members of the emergency services who have worked tirelessly helping those injured in this morning's crash.
"The Highways Agency will provide any support required by a Kent Police investigation into the cause of the crash."
Valentine Elad, a 46-year-old teacher whose car was struck from behind in the crash, told of the eerie aftermath of the pile-ups.
He said: "There were cars upside-down on other cars. There was a black four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi upside-down on a small white car, and an Audi upside-down on the bonnet of another car. It was horrible."
He said the famous sturdiness of his Volvo S40 might have saved him from injury, though he would get himself checked out when he managed to get away from the scene.
"I think the car is a write-off and someone will have to come and get me," he said.
"When I got to the top of the bridge, I saw the brake lights of the cars, and slowed right down then stopped. A car hit me from behind. I pulled on my handbrake, then in the same second, he was hit from behind, and hit me a second time.
"A van came in from my left side, and I was squashed in the driver's seat, but a guy in a high-visibility jacket smashed the window in the driver's door and I was able to crawl out.
"The guy in the car behind me was soaked in blood, he was badly injured."
Mr Elad said those caught up in crashes were well looked after by the emergency services and voluntary organisations who attended, such as the British Red Cross, St John Ambulance Brigade and Salvation Army.
"We've been given water, crisps and biscuits. They're doing what they can for us," he said.