'Miracle nobody killed in 100 car pile-up'
It was "truly miraculous" that no one was killed in a 100-car pile-up on a bridge in heavy fog, police have said.
Eight people were seriously injured and 33 are in hospital following 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 25 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.
Chief Inspector Andy Reeves, from Kent Police, said he had never seen such a crash in 20 years
"From my perspective, it's truly miraculous. It's very fortunate there were no fatalities."
Mr Reeves said it was too early to say what had caused the accident but the heavy fog and driver behaviour could be factors.
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.
Police would also look at the lack of lighting on the bridge - a design issue that has been highlighted by the area's Conservative MP Gordon Henderson since it was opened in July 2006.
Speaking at the scene, Mr Reeves said: "In conditions of thick fog, a significant number of vehicles have been involved in a number of collisions.
"It has been ascertained that 100 vehicles have been seriously damaged in this incident, or series of incidents. In addition, a number of other vehicles have also been caught up in it.
"We understand eight persons were seriously injured, though thankfully none life-threatening, we understand, and up to 200 people were triaged at the scene, and I understand some 35 of them have been taken to local hospitals.
"Visibility was very bad, I understand visibility was down to 25 metres in thick fog, and clearly visibility will be a key factor in our considerations, but at this stage we haven't yet determined what caused the start of the crash."
Mr Reeves said: "I've been doing this job over 20 years, I've never seen anything of this size or scale before."
Kent Fire and Rescue Service area manager Martin Adams said: "The extraordinary thing about this incident 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."
Six casualties were released from vehicles by the fire service.
The unidentified driver who put his truck across the carriageway to stop cars heading into the crash was hailed a hero by motorists who believe he saved lives.
One of them, 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."
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 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."
Those injured were taken to local hospitals including Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.
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.
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 she 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 straightaway.
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."