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Coronavirus Kent: Police chief responds to mass funeral gathering in Murston, near Sittingbourne

A police chief has reminded the public to adhere to social distancing measures, after several people, including a teenage boy, were injured during a mass funeral gathering.

A man was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving after a number of the 100-strong crowd were injured during the gathering in Tonge Road, near Murston, Sittingbourne, with one person airlifted to hospital and others taken to Medway and London hospitals.

Police and medics called after mass gathering at Tonge Road, Murston

Chief constable Alan Pughsley said: "In general, the gatherings that have taken place and we've dispersed are people who are in effect probably irresponsible and shouldn't be doing it, and we've been dealing with those and stopping those.

"Yesterday's incident was different of course - it's a funeral and I completely appreciate the sensitivities of it.

"But in these incredibly difficult times, I'm afraid you're not allowed to have a huge gathering at a funeral.

He added: "We got to know about it very late, we dealt with it in a really sensible, pragmatic and indeed compassionate way.

The mass gathering was reported at Tonge Road, Murston
The mass gathering was reported at Tonge Road, Murston

"But there are rules and regulations around funerals that the whole community should be complying with.

"We'll be doing some work today to understand why that didn't take place."

It is thought about 40 motorbikes were also in the road during the gathering.

One eye-witness, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "It looks as if someone has been hit by a motorbike and the air ambulance has landed.

"There are lots of bikes in the road. They have been going mad out here."

View of where the crash happened
View of where the crash happened

Medics were sent to Tonge Road at about 10.40am. The crash reportedly involved a teenage pedestrian, aged 17, and a motorbike.

Responding to the incident yesterday, a Kent Police spokesman said: "Kent Police was made aware of funeral arrangements due to take place at a crematorium in Sheppey Way, Bobbing.

"Initial inquiries suggested a significant number of people were expected to attend the ceremony to pay their respects followed by a possible procession through the local area.

"The force received notification of the funeral the evening before it was due to take place and was therefore unable to speak with those attending to encourage them to adhere to social distancing measures.

"Officers maintained a presence during the event in an effort to strike a balance between allowing those in attendance to grieve and celebrate the life they knew, while protecting the wider local community from any potential health offences.

"Those who have been identified as attending the ceremony will be contacted in due course to remind them of their personal responsibilities during the Covid-19 pandemic."

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