A 25-year-old man has been arrested today on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving after two black BMWs crashed and two men died.
The collision allegedly sparked a brawl among survivors, according to a witness, as they fought over who was to blame for the crash that closed the motorway’s southbound carriageway for nine hours and caused widespread gridlock.
Hertfordshire police announced this afternoon that a 25-year-old man from East London had been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.
The arrested man is thought to have been driving the second car, a BMW Seven Series, that collided with the first car, a BMW Five Series, after it crashed into the central reservation and a motorway bridge.
The incident, which happened about 2.30am on the southbound carriageway south of junction five at Watford, resulted in the death of the driver and a back-seat passenger in the first car.
Police said the two men who died were aged 24 and 22 and were from East London. They are expected to be named tomorrow.
A statement from Herts police corrected inaccurate information released this morning which said the driver and front-seat passenger had been killed. In fact it was the driver and a rear-seat passenger who lost their lives.
The police statement said: “A 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving following a collision on the M1 this morning. The arrested man is from East London.
“The southbound carriageway was closed for several hours following the collision but is now fully open. Police were called to the scene between junctions 5 and 4, at 2.40am following reports of a collision involving two black BMWs.
“The driver and rear seat passenger of one of the cars sadly died at the scene. Both men are from East London and are aged 22 and 24 years old. Two other passengers of this vehicle, who are both men, suffered serious injuries and have been taken to a hospital in London.
“The four men in the second car were also injured and were taken to hospital.
“Officers would ask anyone who witnessed the collision or events leading up to it, to contact Herts Police on the non-emergency number 101.”
Motorist Basit Nasir, 47, who was overtaken by the two BMW cars and tried to help in the aftermath of the collision, said the scene was “like a plane crash”.
He said the survivors who were able to escape the wreckage began fighting with the occupants of a Mercedes car containing more of the group, who he described as young Asian men, possibly Bangladeshi or Pakistani.
Mr Nasir said the Five Series BMW went past him “about 140mph” closely followed by the Seven Series black BMW.
He told The Evening Standard: “It was total mayhem - it was like a plane crash. There was mangled metal everywhere."
Mr Nasir, a car dealer from Kingston, said: “I was coming south in the slow lane. It was in the early hours of the morning, about 2.30am.
“The first BMW, the Five Series, hit the central reservation, flipped round and hit the side reservation and a bridge and bounced back into the middle of the road. The car that was coming behind - the Seven Series - went into the side of him.”
Four fire engines and six ambulances were sent to the scene but the two men were pronounced dead at the scene. The two passengers in the first car suffered “serious injuries” and were taken to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.
The four passengers in the second BMW were less seriously injured and were taken to Watford General Hospital. It took firefighters about an hour to release all the casualties. It is believed that the driver was arrested after being released from hospital.
Mr Nasir said he managed to help the front-seat passenger out of the Five Series BMW but he appeared badly dazed. The driver had been thrown across to the passenger side of the car and was “totally limp”.
He said four men in a silver Mercedes C220 pulled up at the crash scene and began fighting with their friends. The group is thought to have been in Luton for the evening before heading north to Milton Keynes before heading back to London.
Mr Nasir said: “They all jumped out and everybody started punching each other. They said: ‘What have you done?.’ I tried to break up the fight and called the police from my mobile.
“The driver of the Seven Series, he was trying to say ‘I didn’t hit anybody, I was only doing 60mph.’ They crashed probably two minutes after the passed me.”
He said one of the Mercedes passengers told him the reason their car was further back was because it had stopped at a service station to allow a passenger to use the lavatory.
“The conversation I had with the Seven Series driver was that they just went to Luton to see somebody, then they went to Milton Keynes. I think they were just on a night out.”