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Norfolk doctor helped passengers caught up in A11 coach blaze drama

PUBLISHED: 06:30 13 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:28 13 August 2016

Coach fire on the A11. Photo: Ian Juniper

Coach fire on the A11. Photo: Ian Juniper

Archant

A doctor has described how she helped dozens of shell-shocked and tearful day-trippers after they were led off their coach after it caught fire on the A11.

No-one was hurt in the blaze, which broke out on the double deck vehicle carrying 71 people from Luton on a day trip to Great Yarmouth.

It started at about 5.45pm yesterday, bringing the main road to a standstill, and sent plumes of black smoke billowing over the countryside near Wymondham.

Dr Kate Grant, from Great Hockham, said she first realised something was wrong when cars ahead of her turned on their hazard lights.

She said: “The bus had pulled over and there were flames coming out of the back of it, and I thought ‘there’s nobody on the side of the road’. I was thinking why is no-one coming off the bus.

“I got out of the car and people were coming off the bus. There were people holding babies, and elderly people. They were just completely shell-shocked. I said ‘you have to get away from there’, because either there’s going to be another road accident, or you wonder if it’s going to explode.”

She said passengers had no belongings with them at the road side, and so she and her daughters, Miffy, 11, and Blod, 13, went to a nearby filling station, where the Marks and Spencer manager provided water for the stranded travellers.

Two crews of firefighters, and a water carrier, were sent to the scene, and the road did not fully re-open until after 9pm.

Colin Dudley, managing director of Three Star Coaches company, which ran the service, said driver Mark Hall had first used two fire extinguishers to try to put out the fire, which started in the engine compartment at the back of the coach.

When he realised this was not working, he lead the passengers to safety.

Mr Dudley said: “I’m just so glad we had an experienced driver on it, who, from what I gather, acted in the right way.”

Two local bus companies, Spratts and Simonds, helped ferry the passengers back towards Luton, before they were carried on the rest of their journey by another Three Star coach.

Mr Dudley said investigations into the cause of the blaze would start today.

He said the coach, an Ayat Bravo, was 15 years old, and had been with the company for eight years.

He added: “All our coaches are well maintained and checked regularly. At this stage, we have no idea what the cause could have been.”

Were you on the coach? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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