Peter Walsh and Ian Clarke
Monday, July 16, 2012
A party of 50 pensioners were taken off a coach on one of Norfolk’s busiest stretches of road last night just minutes before it burst into flames.
The holidaymakers from Somerset were staying at the University of East Anglia in Norwich and had been on a day trip when the drama happened on the A47 at Honingham, near Dereham, at about 6pm.
They had stopped at the junction of Wood Lane and two passers by ran to the coach to tell the driver flames were coming out of the back.
The passengers were removed to safety from the coach but the fire quickly spread and the vehicle was burnt out within a few minutes,
No-one was hurt but one passenger was treated at the scene for shock.
Billowing smoke could be seen from several miles away.
The A47 was shut in both directions for about an hour and then had to be closed again later in the evening for a recovery lorry to remove the burnt out coach.
Motorists faced long delays and diversions.
The road had re-opened by 9pm.
Fire crews from Earlham and Dereham used hose reels and breathing apparatus to put out the blaze.
Tim Johnson, from Dereham, is a coach driver and was heading back from Norwich and got caught in the delays on the A47 and saw the drama unfold.
He said: “The coach had pulled over at the junction which is the turn off to Honingham and I assume he realised there was something wrong. Two passers by ran to the coach to tell the driver to get the passengers off as they could see flames coming out of the back.
“It was really fortunate as three-four minutes later the coach was a ball of flames.”
Mr Johnson offered to take the passengers back to the UEA, but an Eastern Counties double decker was sent to the scene.
PC Chris Tremlin, of Norfolk Police, said an engine fault appeared to have caused the fire.
“It was fortunate that everyone acted quickly to get the passengers off.”
He said officers could see the smoke from several miles away as they headed to the scene.
“We saw smoke billowing when we came past the Thickthorn roundabout.”