Trapped under wreckage, only hands and feet were visible

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The Independent Online
WITH a final shudder the silver-coloured coach was hoisted back on to the road, its bright red curtains billowing through gaping windows. Firemen trudged along the muddy grass, picking up pairs of velour seats and throwing them through the windows, back into the body of the coach, writes Jojo Moyes.

At 9.35 yesterday morning, the 'high specification, premium brand' tourist bus was on its way to Canterbury and Leeds Castle in wet and windy weather. According to police, it hit the rear of a Ford Transit van and careered into a barrier, veering down an embankment and rolling as it fell. The coach came to rest on the driver's side, facing backwards, its rear end nestling into the muddy ditch at the bottom.

The driver, who was pulled from the back of the coach, was among the 10 dead. The van's driver was unhurt and was later interviewed by police. Accident investigators think it will be tomorrow before the true cause of the crash can be determined.

'There was no screaming, no hysteria,' said one young fireman as he stood watching the salvage operation. 'Some of them were walking out as we got there. Some were thrown out into the ditch. But there was no crying at all.'

It took more than two hours to remove everyone from the wreckage; the dead were taken out last. One witness described how only the hands and feet of the victims, trapped under the offside of the coach, had been visible. The paramedics had walked slowly along the length of the coach, she said, touching the limbs, shaking their heads and moving on.

John Walraven, a lorry driver, came across the accident just after it happened. 'People had appalling injuries caused by broken glass,' he said, adding that some were trying to stand up but could not because of broken limbs.

Along the grass a collection of brightly coloured duvets caught the eye. On them were belongings gathered from the area; a paperback book, a handbag, a single shoe. It was all that remained of what should have been an enjoyable day sightseeing round the Kent countryside for American and Canadian tourists.

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