Nine hurt as coach carrying American punk rock band Baroness falls from viaduct in A36 crash

Two who were trapped in the wreckage,  including the driver, had to be rescued by firefighters

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The Independent Online

Members of a US punk rock band and their crew are recovering in hospital after their tour bus plunged over a viaduct in heavy rain.

The band, Baroness, from Savannah, Georgia, were touring Britain and Europe when their coach crashed through a safety barrier and fell 30ft (9m).

Emergency services said two people, including the driver, were trapped in the wreckage. They were cut free and, having suffered the most serious injuries including multiple fractures, were taken to Frenchay Hospital in Bristol.

According to Great Western Ambulance Service, the other seven suffered more minor injuries and were taken to Royal United Hospital in Bath.

Baroness's line-up consists of John Baizley, Peter Adams, Matt Maggioni and Allen Blickle. They played in Bristol last night and were travelling to a gig in Southampton when the accident happened at the junction of Brassknocker Hill and the A36 in Bath at 11.30am.

A spokesman for the band said: "Baroness were in a serious bus accident last night near Bath, England. The band members and crew are recovering at local hospitals. All tour dates are postponed until further notice."

Eyewitnesses said they heard a loud bang and rushed to the scene.

Site manager Tony Cook, 61, was one of the first people to arrive as he was working at a property at the bottom of Brassknocker Hill.

When he and some of the other workers got to the coach they found the driver hanging out of the front window, Mr Cook said.

After helping him out the driver told them there had been a problem with the steering.

"At the top of the hill it is quite windy so they were going quite slow and seemed to be taking it quite carefully," Mr Cook said.

"It was torrential rain. It was like one of these eastern storms or something, it was like a river down here.

"Whether the brakes went at the bottom or, what the driver said to one of my blokes, was that the steering went, he couldn't get around the corner. So whether the hydraulics or something went, I don't know.

"When we got down there the driver was hanging out of the front of the coach but his legs were trapped so we had to free him and get him back and comfortable.

"Then we got some ladders down there so that the people that were conscious inside could get out.

"We just got the people to the side of the road and made them comfortable and just helped where we could because obviously there was quite a bit of commotion, screaming and that. But then the police and the ambulance got here and they took over.

"It was a left-hand drive German coach and inside there were all fairy lights, but it was all quite a mess by the time we got there.

"First of all you think: maybe his brakes went? But I don't think he would have got quite as far around. But he said he couldn't steer around the corner, so it could have been that he was going too fast. But it could be a combination of things."

Kerry Heskith, 24, an assistant manager in the Angelfish Cafe next to the crash site, said it was a miracle that no one was more seriously hurt.

"It was pouring down with rain and we just heard a humongous noise, a massive bang. It was like a cross between thunder and a massive lorry crash." she said.

"Me and my colleague just looked at each other and ran straight around the coroner and went up onto the road. And we saw the vehicle that had gone over and ran straight back to get our colleagues to ring the emergency services.

"We then went back around the corner and saw that it was a coach and presumed the worse: that it was full of people.

"We went back to say: get as many ambulances as you can, it's a big coach and it's crashed. It's all crushed at the front. And then we went back to check for fuel and things but it was diesel, so it wouldn't ignite.

"There were just trees everywhere and it was all smashed up. And the builders ran down and people from cars were running down to help.

"We could see a couple of people moving inside and it was quite quickly assumed that everyone was alive and we got the numbers that it was nine people.

"Then all the ambulances, fire brigade and police arrived and we got out the way and helped provide tea and coffees for people and somewhere to shelter for the people that were injured."

Miss Heskith said people inside coach were in shock.

"It was very quiet but there was the hustle and bustle of people around rushing to the coach to see if people were okay. Everyone was just concerned and shocked because it is such a drop. The way it has travelled, I just can't believe people weren't more seriously hurt. It's a miracle crash really," she said.

"It is 30ft and the whole front of the coach is smashed. It could have been so much worse."

Miss Heskith helped to comfort the band members with less serious injuries and took them to the cafe where they were interviewed by the police.

"The band members were absolutely all lovely and I think they just wanted to get home," she said.

"I think they were just shaken up. They just couldn't believe it. They couldn't really remember the whole thing I don't think. I really hope they're all okay. They were a really nice bunch of people."

No other vehicles were in the crash with the single-decker, black and red German coach. It appears that the coach failed to stop at the bottom of the T-junction at Brassknocker Hill and crashed over the viaduct.

An Avon Fire and Rescue spokesman said: "For reasons that are not yet known, the coach failed to stop at the bottom of Brassknocker Hill, travelled across the A36 and left the road, dropping around 30ft below, coming to rest near a canal."

The coach came to a standstill with its wheels still on the ground, taking with it foliage and tree branches which now cover the roof of the vehicle. Coach seats and bits of wood from inside were pulled out and all of its windows were smashed.

Inspector Steve Mildren, from Avon and Somerset Police, told reporters at the scene: "At 11.30am this morning we received a telephone call from a member of the public. They told us a coach had come down over Brassknocker Hill at the junction of the A36 and had left the road and had landed on the road at the bottom of the viaduct.

"We know that there were nine passengers on the coach. They have all been accounted for and there are some injuries there and they are receiving medical treatment at hospital. At this time we don't believe that any of those injuries are life-threatening.

"It had been raining really heavily, as it has been for much of the day."

An investigation is now under way to establish how and why the coach left the road.

The temporary road closures around the scene of the crash have been lifted, Avon and Somerset Police said later.

"Motorists are thanked for their patience while the emergency services dealt with this incident," the spokesman added.