Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 18:14 UK

Inquiry after fatal coach crash

Aerial footage of the bus lying in a garden in Staffordshire

Investigators have been at the scene of a crash where a coach careered down an embankment, killing a 26-year-old Polish man and injuring 71 people.

The coach collided with a car, crashed through a wall and ended up in a garden in Alton, near Alton Towers theme park in Staffordshire, on Monday evening.

The passengers on the bus from Peterborough included 28 people from Poland and 17 from Lithuania.

Seven people are in hospital, with two of those in a critical condition.

Two people were flown to hospital with head injuries.

Car after collision with coach in Alton, Staffordshire
The coach had collided with a car

The passengers were fruit and strawberry pickers based at Lutton Farm in Oundle, Northamptonshire, who were on a trip to Alton Towers.

The 63-year-old driver, from the Peterborough area, is in a critical but not life-threatening condition in intensive care at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.

Police said he provided a negative breath test.

A 21-year-old woman from Poland remains in a critical life-threatening condition at the same hospital.

Five other people - two from Poland, one from Latvia and two from Lithuania - are in various hospitals in Staffordshire in stable conditions.

There were passengers from Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and a man from South Africa on the coach.

Each of the 71 passengers on board who survived the crash received some injuries.

There was nobody inside the car which the coach collided with.

Anne Long, 79, who runs Lutton Farm with her husband and children, said everyone at the farm was shocked.

"All of the people in the coach are workers on our farm," she said.

"They had a day off to go to Alton Towers. They do this kind of thing quite often."

'Rushed straight up'

Mrs Long said her daughter got a call from one of the passengers just after the crash happened.

"We just couldn't believe it. My daughter rushed straight up there to help," she said.

"Most of the workers are back here now. Everyone is in shock."

She said the Polish man who died in the crash had worked at the farm every summer for three or four years.

There was about 12 to 15 people, all crying hysterically, blood running down their faces and their arms
Margaret Grice, witness

Recovery experts were using two cranes to remove the vehicle from the site. Alton Towers is open as normal.

A police spokesman said the bus was so badly damaged it was difficult to determine its make and model but it was a type that had raised seating at the back.

The crash has caused villagers to repeat calls for a bypass to take away theme park traffic away from Alton.

But Russell Barnes, the park's regional director, said he was "disappointed" the point had been raised.

"While I have been at Alton Towers we have had an open dialogue about where we are with an eastern access road and I made a commitment at the beginning of the year that we would return to them in January with a definitive answer."

The vehicle involved in the crash was owned by Decker Bus, based in Whittlesey, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

Ch Insp John Maddox, from Staffordshire Police, said officers were trying to establish what caused the crash.

"The bus was coming down a steep hill towards the bridge at the bottom, and from what I can see at the scene, that bus has not managed to go round the bend, and has careered through a wall and down a drop into a garden.

"We can't get that information from the driver as he is critically injured."

'Crying hysterically'

The coach, which landed on a part-built chassis of a car, is lying on a slope at the bottom of a garden.

The collision happened on Station Road, between Alton and the theme park, which is about a mile away.

Margaret Grice, who lives near the scene, said some of the injured banged on her front door.

She said: "I went to the front door and there was about 12 to 15 people, all crying hysterically, blood running down their faces and their arms and... they couldn't speak English but they were able to say 'accident, accident' so at that point I then rang 999."

Satellite image of crash area

One dead, many hurt in bus crash
19 Aug 08 |  England
Villagers want attraction bypass
22 Jan 08 |  Staffordshire

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