Up to five soldiers have suffered “life-changing injuries” after three military vehicles collided on Salisbury Plain, a few miles from Stonehenge.
Another 16 people were described as “walking wounded” by police. Two of the casualties had to be cut free from the wreckage by firefighters.
The accident near Westdown Camp, Larkhill, happened on a public byway that cuts through the defence training estate in Wiltshire at about 6.30pm on Wednesday.
A military exercise was taking place on the Plain at the time but it was unclear whether the vehicles were taking part in it. Wiltshire Police confirmed in a statement that there had been “a road traffic collision between three military troop carriers on Salisbury Plain, involving up to 20 military personnel”. They included British and Indian soldiers.
“We received a call from the Air Ambulance at 6.30pm today who told us they were attending. First responders and three military ambulances were also at the location, a field on the Plain near Westdown Camp,” it said.
“We had reports of four to five people with life-changing injuries and approximately 16 others ‘walking wounded’,” the force added.
Wiltshire Fire and Rescue said it sent two fire engines and a specialist heavy rescue unit. “We released the two people that were trapped,” said a spokesman. He added: “Primarily because it’s on Salisbury Plain, it’s the military and owned by the military, we cannot really reveal too much information.”
However Wiltshire Police said the accident took place on a public route across the Plain. “The RTC [road traffic collision] happened on a by-way which cuts through the Plain, hence why we were called,” police said. It was unclear whether the byway was open to the public at the time.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We are aware there’s being an accident on the Salisbury Plain training area and we understand there are a number of casualties.” He said the military was working with Wiltshire Police and the South West Ambulance Service.
The spokesman was not able to confirm whether or not the vehicles were taking part in the exercise when the accident happened.
“It may be they were just moving from one place to another,” he added.
A Wiltshire Air Ambulance helicopter was first on the scene and found “multiple patients, some critical”, the service said on Twitter. Two other helicopters then arrived to help take the casualties to hospital. Three military ambulances also went to the scene.
There were also reports that two military vehicles, rather than three, were involved in the accident. Great Western Air Ambulance, which is based in the Bristol area, said on Twitter: “We attended an incident on Salisbury Plain involving 2 military vehicles. Thoughts are with all involved.”Reuse content