A 15-year-old schoolgirl and a bus driver have died after a motorway crash in Cheshire that left several other children in hospital.
On Friday night the girl was named as Jessica Baker by Merseyside police. Earlier they said 58 people were involved in the incident, including the two fatalities.
Two pupils were taken to Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool with serious injuries and another two casualties were treated at Wirral’s Arrowe Park hospital after their bus overturned on the way to school on the M53 in Merseyside. Police said the wounded included a 14-year-old boy who had suffered life-changing injuries.
Others involved in the collision were treated at an emergency training centre in Wallasey, with 13 treated for minor injuries before they were released.
Emergency services declared a “major incident” after the morning rush-hour incident on the M53.
The bus was on its way to Calday Grange and West Kirby grammar schools in Wirral when it overturned on the hard shoulder.
Investigators were trying to establish what caused the bus to flip on its side as police said the crash was not believed to have involved another vehicle, despite earlier reports.
Ch Supt Graeme Robson, of Merseyside police, said: “Family liaison officers are providing specialist support and we are working with both schools and Wirral and Cheshire West councils to ensure the necessary trauma support is in place for the children on the bus.
“We also know that other children from both schools were on buses travelling in convoy with the bus involved in the incident and witnessed the incident. They too will be provided with appropriate trauma support.”
Motorists said they saw schoolchildren climbing out of the smashed rear window of the overturned coach while firefighters pulled others from the wreckage.
Joanne Clague, of the North West ambulance service, told a press conference at Birkenhead town hall: “I would like to thank our emergency services colleagues for their support in ensuring that the scene was safe so we were able to identify the most seriously injured while safeguarding all those involved in this incident.
“Again, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of those affected.”
It is understood the bus was taking pupils on the regular 22-mile route from Chester via the village of Little Sutton to the two schools in West Kirby.
Two fire engines attended as Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service assisted in the response.
Sherin Akhtar, a local Labour councillor, said she drove past the crash scene minutes after it happened.
Akhtar, who was in the car with her 13-year-old daughter, said: “We recognised the coach and we knew which students were in there and we know that there were students that my son knows because he goes to the same grammar school. He was in the coach behind and we were in front. There were clearly casualties outside, there were pupils on the floor.”
Alison McGovern, the Labour MP for Wirral South, said: “News that a school on the Wirral has lost one of our precious young people is incredibly hard to bear. My heart goes out to their family and friends. I am also thinking of the loved ones of the driver of the vehicle and I am so sorry that this dreadful incident has happened.
“I know that our emergency services will have done every possible thing to save lives at the scene and I am so grateful to them. In [the] weeks and months ahead, the investigation will provide much needed answers on this terrible crash.
“No one should speculate until the facts are known. We will need to care for two school communities that will be heartbroken today, and as a borough, the Wirral will do all it can to care for those traumatised and injured.”
Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said: “My heart goes out to everyone affected by the tragic accident on the Wirral this morning. Unimaginably sad news.”
Earlier, medics who had been on strike left their picket lines to return to hospitals as Alder Hey and Arrowe Park declared major incidents.
The union Unison said clinical support workers had “immediately returned to work to help” as it cancelled its picket line in Wirral.
National Highways said the M53 had been closed in both directions after the incident between junctions five and four towards Liverpool.
National Highways North West said: “North West Motorway Police Group will be carrying out complex investigation work. Once complete, recovery of the coach and collision clear-up work can begin.”