Bus on diversion smashes into bridge

PASSENGERS were left needing medical treatment after the roof of their bus was ripped open while on diversion around Camden Town because of Saturday's fire.

Sandy Macaskill

PASSENGERS were left needing medical treatment after the roof of their bus was ripped open while on diversion around Camden Town because of Saturday's fire.

The number 24 bus was travelling along Prince of Wales Road on Monday morning to avoid the fire exclusion zone, when it was torn open going under the Kentish Town West bridge.

A similar incident took place three months ago when an out-of-service double decker also smashed into the bridge.

This time, six people were hurt including one man who is in a critical condition at the Royal Free with head injuries. The bus driver was treated for shock.

Witnesses told how the bus failed to heed signs on the bridge warning of the low clearance and attempted to squeeze under the curving bridge arch at the same time as an oncoming car.

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Passengers sitting by the windshield on the top deck saw the impact coming and had time to take cover on the floor, but those sitting further back did not have time to react.

Dell Knibbs, a trained first aider working on a building site in Hadley Street, heard the crash and was one of the first to the scene to help the injured. Along with local rail workers, Mr Knibbs found one man seriously injured.

"He was cut across the forehead, with both hands ripped to shreds," he said. "I thought he was dead at first."

Traffic, already disrupted from the diversion routes, ground to a halt and a second diversion had to be put in place. Prince of Wales Road resident Daniel Chapman, 26, said: "I came out of my house at 9am and saw the emergency services cutting the roof away.

"The bus was completely mangled. Another bus tried to overtake it but also got stuck, so the road was completely blocked. About 10 buses were queuing up along the road, unable to get through. It was a real nightmare.

"This happened only a few months ago. The bus company should've known better."

On the first day back after the Camden Town fire, people trying to get to work were left fuming as traffic ground to a halt.

A structural engineer called out to examine the bridge said he had attended half a dozen similar incidents there.

An ambulance service spokeswoman said units from the Hazardous Area Response Team were dispatched as well as regular paramedics and doctors.

"One adult male, believed to be 30 years old, was taken to the Royal Free hospital with a head injury," she said, adding that five others - two men and three women - were also taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

A Transport for London spokeswoman said buses and overground trains were disrupted but defended the decision to divert traffic under the bridge.

"The bridge on Prince of Wales Road is arched and is 16 foot six inches in the middle and can be used safely by double decker buses which require a clearance of 14 foot nine inches when they stay in the correct position in the road," she said.

"There are clear road markings as well as a sign on the bridge reminding drivers of that fact.

"We will be working with the bus operator, London General, and the police to carry out a full investigation into this incident."