Insurance bill for huge Sheppey Crossing pile-up could top £600k, says AA
Drivers caught up in one of Britan's worst pile-ups are beginning to recover their vehicles today - as it is revealed the insurance bill for damage alone could top £600,000.
Vehicles damaged in the horrific smash involving 130 motorists in thick fog on the Sheppey Crossing yesterday have been kept in a secure location overnight.
The huge crash left eight people seriously injured as two separate rush-hour collisions brought "carnage" at around 7.15am.
Emergency vehicles flank the scene of the crash on the Sheppey Crossing
Sixty other people also suffered minor injuries in the horrific crash, with 35 taken to hospitals across the county.
As many as 120 others are believed to be among the walking wounded as harrowing witness accounts emerged of the "carnage" after two separate rush-hour crashes.
Now vehicle owners are asked to phone the Kent Police Serious Collision Investigation Unit on 01622 798538 to discuss collection.
Police said all those taken to hospital are in a stable condition and will begin to be sent home today.
The AA predicted insurance firms are in line to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds for damaged vehicles - and the total once other payouts are considered could reach around £1million.
And the potential payouts from personal injury claims could be much higher, with several specialist law firms already approaching victims.
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Wrecked vehicles being taken away from the Sheppey Crossing
Wrecked vehicles on a car transporter involved in the accident
A car left without a roof after the driver was cut free. Picture: Chris Davey
Paul Watters, head of roads policy for the AA, said: "It's going to be a complete mess for many people, certainly having the car of the road and dealing with the insurance firm because it was a multiple accident.
"The average claim, based on AA insurance statistics, could certainly be about £4,000 per vehicle. There are going to be some a bit lower and certainly many a lot higher than that.
"There's going to be a lot of cost from this crash - and that's before personal injury claims are considered..." - Paul Watters from the AA
"There's lots of figures being banded around at the moment, but assuming there were 100-plus vehicles - with a considerable amount badly damaged - you're probably looking at £600,000 just for the vehicle damage alone.
"Then there's all the other bits, such as lost working time, pain and suffering and hire cars.
"It will be in total a figure closer to a million, I'm sure. There's going to be a lot of cost from this crash - and that's before personal injury claims are considered."
It comes as an expert claimed the crash could easily have ranked as one of the nation's most serious road disasters.
Video: Clean-up operation on the Sheppey Crossing
Neil Greig, director of policy and research for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said it was lucky there were not more lorries on the bridge at the time - as one spark igniting a fire during the crash could have been catastrophic.
He said the fact there was no loss of life was "a combination of good luck and the fact there weren't that many fast-moving heavy goods vehicles.
"It tends to be lorries piling into the back of parked cars that kills people."
He urged drivers to slow down in particularly foggy conditions, with more severe weather ahead of us.
Emergency workers leave the scene
Victims of the pile-up at the Sheppey Bridge entrance. Picture: @jaimeemmett
Crowds gather on the Sheppey Crossing after the pile-up
Mr Greig added: "You have to respect bad weather like this, particularly on a bridge.
"This could have been so much worse. If there had been a fire on that bridge we could have been looking at one of the worst road disasters ever."
He admitted the scale of the collision - with more than 130 vehicles involved - was one of the biggest pile-ups on a major road he could remember in 20 years of road safety.
But he said the police investigation would take some time to get to the cause of crash.
Mr Greig was speaking as officers sift through the evidence to piece together the moments leading up to the crash.
It is thought it could take months to finish an investigation into the cause of the accident.
- Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motorists
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Speaking late yesterday, Chief Insp Andy Reeves, who co-ordinated the rescue operation, thanked all those who had played a part.
He said: "I was thoroughly impressed by the patience and compassion displayed both by those involved in the collision and members of the local community, many of whom called to ask if they could help or brought bottles of water and food to the scene for the victims and emergency services staff.
"I would like to thank everybody for their support.
"Officers will continue to investigate the collision in the days ahead to try to establish the cause."
But, in the aftermath of the crash, major questions need to be answered.
Witnesses claimed speeding drivers had been hurtling through dangerous fog - many of them without any lights on despite the greatly reduced visibility.
One driver said some motorists were "driving like idiots" on the dual carriageway despite the "appalling" conditions in thick fog.
Video: Scene of devastation after Sheppey Crossing pile-up
Phil Deverson, from Eastchurch, was among those caught up in the crash with his daughter Nicola Deverson, who he was driving to work.
The 60-year-old said: "We got on to the A249 up by Queenborough Corner. The fog was getting worse when we approached the bridge.
"I heard some bangs before I saw the crash. I swerved to avoid it and we just about managed to stop about two feet away."
He added: "It was like a war scene. That is the best way I can describe it. It was just carnage everywhere."
His daughter Nicola Deverson, who teaches deaf children in Strood, said: "I was in shock, just walking around trying to see a way out. Everything seemed to be going really slowly.
"I do think they should close the bridge in bad fog and maybe put up some warning lights."
Phil Deverson and daughter Nicola were involved in the Sheppey Crossing crash
The 31-year-old said the tyre of an articulated lorry was inches away from the crash helmet of a motorcyclist who flipped through the air.
She said if it had not stopped so soon, it could have crushed his head.
The Sheppey Crossing was built in 2006 under a £100million private finance initiative.
MP Gordon Henderson and Kent County Council councillors raised safety concerns about the lack of a hard shoulder and lights.
The then chief constable of Kent Police Mike Fuller said he felt the bridge design was flawed and an accident was waiting to happen.
However, the Department of Transport said the curvature and gradients of the bridge and its approaches are consistent with a design speed of 70mph.
Smashed up front of a badly-damaged Nissan
An injured motorist is treated by paramedics. Picture: Chris Davey
An aerial image shows the scale of the Sheppey Crossing pile-up. Picture: Simon Burchett
Yesterday's crash is one of Britain's biggest ever pile-ups.
Sixteen years ago, 160 vehicles were involved in an accident on the M24 that killed three people and injured 60 others.
A road sweeper begins the clear up at the Sheppey Crossing
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