Three British tourists killed as minibus crashes on Australian picnic trip

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The Independent Online

Three British holidaymakers died and four were in hospital in serious or critical condition after their rented minibus collided with a meat lorry yesterday at a busy intersection near Perth, Western Australia.

Three British holidaymakers died and four were in hospital in serious or critical condition after their rented minibus collided with a meat lorry yesterday at a busy intersection near Perth, Western Australia.

Last night the tourists, believed to be in their fifties and early sixties, had not yet been named, and police said identifications had not been completed. All are from the Midlands, the Foreign Office said. An Australian man with the British party also died.

The accident happened at 3pm local time as the group was travelling to Rockingham, a beach town 30 miles south of Perth, reportedly for a picnic.

The driver of the lorry was unharmed in the crash, in which the eight-seater minibus was dragged 50 metres along the highway and crushed. The scene was described as "horrendous" by an Australian television reporter, Jasmine Jones of Channel Nine.

"When I got to the scene and had to describe the vehicle, I was at a loss," she said. "It was very difficult to see how anyone could have walked away from that accident without injuries."

One man who had been sitting in the front passenger seat died at the scene, while a woman and two other men - one of them the Australian - died later in hospital. The other four passengers were trapped in the wreckage.

The injured were taken to hospitals in Rockingham and Fremantle, where their conditions were described as "very serious to critical". At least one was expected not to survive. Some of the victims are thought to be related.

The Perth fire service said removing the dead and injured from the wreckage had been a difficult operation, using metal-cutting equipment.

Sergeant John Curran of Perth police said investigations were continuing. "Conditions were fine and the road was dry.It was a collision on a corner, so obviously someone did the wrong thing on a junction between a main road and a side road. There is not much left of the bus." Reports suggested that the minibus - a white Nissan Urvan bus, which the group rented - had gone through a red light and turned a corner into the path of the lorry.

Four Britons died in a road accident in Queensland in May last year when their car was hit by a truck as it waited at traffic lights near Tully, south of Cairns.

The group of friends - Peter Standing, 21, Martyn Hebblethwaite, 22, his brother, Ben, 26, and Timothy Skipp, all from Sussex - had been out celebrating Mr Skipp's 23rd birthday.

A British tourist, 28-year-old Jason Walsh of Redruth, Cornwall, died in a head-on collision in northern Queensland two months ago between a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a minibus in which he and a group of backpackers were travelling. A Japanese tourist was also killed and four other Britons were injured.

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