Twelve people were also injured. Six had to be freed from the wreckage of the crashes which were caused after smoke from a fire aboard a coach mixed with mist to cause dense fog. Sixteen vehicles crashed on the southbound carriageway of the A1(M) near Sedgefield, midway between Durham City and Darlington.
The series of accidents happened at about 6pm shortly after the fire started on a single-decker coach which was taking 32 people back from a Christmas shopping trip to the Metrocentre, at Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. As the coach, owned by Smith's of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, waited on the hard shoulder thick smoke billowed on to the carriageway.
Two victims were found to be dead at the scene. The third died soon afterwards at Bishop Auckland General Hospital.
The 12 injured, one of whom was thought to be seriously hurt, were taken to Bishop Auckland or Darlington Memorial Hospitals. About 70 people who were involved in the accidents, but uninjured, were taken to Durham police headquarters. Police set up an information helpline on 091-386 9011.Reuse content