The driver of a school bus and a teenage girl have died after the vehicle overturned in a horror crash on the M53 in the Wirral.
The girl was named by police on Friday evening as 15-year-old Jessica Baker.
Police earlier said a “number of patients” had been taken to hospital and 50 others were treated at the scene following the accident before they were transported to a casualty clearing centre at the emergency services training centre in Wallasey.
Of those, 39 have now been discharged while the remainder have been taken to hospital for further treatment. A further two patients were taken to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital with serious injuries.
Chief Superintendent Graeme Robson also told the press conference: “Our thoughts and condolences are very much with their family and friends at this tragic time.
“Family Liaison Officers are providing specialist support to both families and we are working with the schools, Wirral Council and Cheshire West Council 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 and they witnessed the incident and they too will be provided with specialist trauma support.
“The motorway is expected to be closed for a number of hours whilst investigative work is carried out and we would like to thank motorists for their patience while the investigation is ongoing.”
It is thought the bus was going to West Kirby all-girls grammar school and Calday Grange all-boys grammar school, also in West Kirby, Merseyside.
Local ambulance services said earlier that one female patient had suffered “major trauma-related injuries” while local hospitals declared a major incident following the accident.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said he is “being kept updated on the unfolding incident on the M53”.
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital said it has “de-escalated” after declaring a major incident earlier on Friday.
The Liverpool hospital said: “We’ve now de-escalated from a major incident, however our A&E remains extremely busy. Please only attend in cases of emergency.
“If you have an appointment at Alder Hey, please still attend as normal.”
It earlier said: “We can confirm that we are treating a number of patients following the incident this morning.
“We will continue to support and liaise with families directly and are unable to share any further details of individual patients at this time.”
A statement from the North West Ambulance Service added: “North West Ambulance Service has declared a major incident following a road traffic collision between a coach and a car on the M53 northbound at approximately 08.30 this morning.
“The trust dispatched a large number of resources to the scene, including ambulances, advanced paramedics, our Hazardous Area Response Team and a HEMS doctor.
“So far, one female patient has been taken to the hospital, suffering major trauma-related injuries.
“There are also nearly 50 other patients being assessed at the scene. We are working closely with our incident partners to convey people away from the scene as quickly as possible.”
Dr Nikki Stevenson, medical director at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said: “Our thoughts are with those affected by this event and we are ready to provide treatment and support to any casualties and relatives arriving at Arrowe Park Hospital.”
Striking NHS staff in Wirral have also left a picket line to return to work.
Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle, who represents Wallasey, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “My thoughts are with all of those who have pupils at both schools and their families and also with the emergency services who have been having to respond to this incident as it has unfolded today.”
National Highways North West said: “The incident occurred shortly after 8am this morning.
“All emergency services are on scene along with North West Air Ambulance Services. National Highways Traffic Officers are on scene providing assistance with traffic management.”
In a tweet, Calday Grange Grammar School in West Kirby, Merseyside, posted: “We are aware of a situation involving one of our school buses on the motorway earlier today.
“We’re actively gathering details and assisting affected students and their families.”
Diversions were put in place as the M53 is closed in both directions between junctions 3 and 5.
A spokeswoman for Merseyside Police said: “We can confirm that emergency services are on the M53 in Hooton following a collision involving a bus on the motorway.
“Just after 8am we received a report that a bus had struck a reservation on Junction 5 of the M53.
“Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service is currently ensuring the safe removal of passengers and the driver, and North West Ambulance Service are at the scene attending to anyone requiring treatment.
“Motorists are advised to avoid the area and find alternative routes, and we advise people to remain patient while the incident is ongoing.
“Enquiries are ongoing and updates will be issued as soon as possible.
“Please note this incident is ongoing and we are urging people to refrain from speculating or publishing any sensitive information that could be distressing online or via social media platforms.”
Anyone who witnessed the incident or has dashcam footage or CCTV should contact Merseyside Police social media desk via Twitter @MerPolCC quoting 23000944471.