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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 02:33 GMT
Inquiry into fatal coach crash
Coach crash on M25
The coach was later taken away for analysis
Police are investigating why a coach left the road and overturned several times on the M25, killing five people and injuring 40.

Thirteen of the injured needed to stay in hospital after the crash near Slough, Berkshire, with two people still in intensive care on Monday.

Police said the crash happened in good weather conditions and no other vehicle was involved.

Coach driver Graham Spring
Graham Spring was an experienced driver
The driver, believed to be Christopher Sloane, in his late 30s, and co-driver Graham Spring, 56, were among those killed. Mr Sloane's wife Karen also died.

The coach, with 43 passengers, was returning to Worcestershire after a cross-Channel day trip when it left the motorway between junctions 15 and 16 late on Saturday night.

The vehicle, owned by Mr Spring's Evesham-based family firm WR Spring & Son, rolled down an embankment before skidding about 50 metres and coming to rest in a field.

The dead and 28 injured were taken to Wexham Park Hospital in Slough.

One woman is in intensive care in a serious condition.

'Thrown around'

The hospital's major incident plan was launched to deal with the crash victims, and a chaplain spent the night talking to patients and relatives.

There were 12 injured taken to Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge.

Nine have been discharged, one is in a critical condition, one is under observation and another has been sent elsewhere for eye treatment.

Coach passenger Adrian Jones, 39, from Evesham, who was treated in hospital for cuts, said he and his wife Sylvia were lucky to be alive.

"The coach just swerved across... I was just thrown around inside the coach with my wife, then it finally came to a standstill.

"People were screaming. Those of us that could jumped through the skylight and helped the injured out."

Police officers are investigating, among other options, whether the driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Sergeant Phil Haseler of Thames Valley Police said: "It is always something that we look at if another vehicle is not involved in a crash."

'Experienced drivers'

They will also consider the mechanics of the vehicle, the drivers' working hours and whether they had alcohol in their systems, the road surface and witness statements.

Mr Spring's sister Pam told BBC News 24 the firm had "absolutely no idea" what caused the accident.

The coach had left Evesham at 0500 GMT, said Ms Spring, but there was no reason to suggest either of the drivers had been tired.

"My brother's done this trip many times before. He's a very experienced driver, he's been driving since he was 21.

"Christopher Sloane also has been with us for 10 years, and is an experienced driver on the continent and in this country."

My brother, who was killed in the crash, did all the [coach] maintenance and he was very, very strict

Pam Spring
A passenger said the drivers had swapped just after arriving back in England.

The firm has been running cross-Channel trips for 30 years without an accident, added Ms Spring.

All the passengers came from Evesham or the nearby towns of Badsey, Wickhamford and Pershore.

Des Rock, a spokesman for WR Spring, said the entire community had been traumatised by the tragedy.

The Sloanes leave two children aged 16 and eight, and Mr Spring had two sons aged 22 and 19.

Chris Bunce of Buckinghamshire Fire Service
"The rescue services were met with multiple casualties"
The BBC's Clarence Mitchell
"The driving conditions were good"
Sister of coach driver Pam Springs
"My brother is a very experienced driver"

Click here to go to BBC Hereford and Worcester

Click here to go to BBC Berkshire Online
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17 Nov 02 | England
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