Kent’s emergency services have helped documentary makers from ITV recreate the 2013 Sheppey Crossing crash; one of the UK’s worst ever road crashes, for a brand new one-off documentary - CRASH: Anatomy of an accident, which will be broadcast on ITV this week.
On the morning of 5 September 2013 over 100 cars, lorries, vans and motorbikes crashed in thick fog on the 100ft high bridge, the crash site covered around a mile. More than 300 people were caught up in the incident; six people were left with serious injuries. The crash was declared a major incident and to this day it is widely regarded as a miracle that no-one died.
ITV Producer, Jemma Martinez said: "We know that blue flashing light dramas and documentaries play really well with TV audiences, and one thing that we haven’t explored as much over the years is the way a road crash happens from start to finish. Particularly with all the emergency rescue and forensic work that goes on behind the scenes.
"We were really grateful for the support each of the emergency services in Kent gave to help make this documentary, particularly Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) with the way they were able to recreate the crash in such an incredible way."
KFRS Assistant Director, Martin Adams said: "The programme is incredibly real and reflective of what happened on that September day. We felt it would be an ideal opportunity to demonstrate that any one of us can get caught up in an accident on the roads, the consequences of what can happen, but more importantly how incidents of this nature can be prevented. All of Kent’s emergency services worked extremely hard that day and were incredibly effective together, so much so that the Sheppey Crossing crash helped us all to forge closer working processes that are in use today and are constantly being developed. It’s one of those career moments I’ll never forget."
Operational Training Watch Manager, Chris Thompson explains how the reconstruction was carried out: "We focused on the casualties and how they were cut free from their cars, rather than the detail of damage to their cars. We were able to find vehicles that were a close match to those involved, and we gained insight from our firefighters who worked incredibly hard during the incident so we could reconstruct the scene that our crews were greeted with when they first got to the bridge."
The huge emergency service response to the Sheppey Crossing crash involved KFRS, SECAmb, Kent Police and other support services like the Red Cross volunteers, who all rushed to the scene to face an unprecedented scenario. Watch Manager Neil Ryder was on the first engine to get to the scene: "If you’d have said that was an Armageddon film set, you wouldn’t be far wrong."
Inspector Martin Stevens from Kent Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit said: "The documentary was good fun to be involved in but at the heart of all of our work and our partners’ work is a very serious message which is; if you’re driving, drive to the conditions of the road.
"The collisions on the Sheppey Crossing that day were logistically very challenging to deal with but it is a testament to the joint working we have with KFRS and SECAmb that those people who were injured were treated, that those people who were trapped were freed swiftly and that the bridge was cleared as quickly and as safely as possible."
Paramedic and Clinical Team Leader Denise Collett said: "We were keen to be involved in the documentary when we were approached by ITV. This was the largest road traffic collision we have attended and we are very proud of the way in which our staff at the scene and in control responded. An incident of this scale requires good teamwork among our own staff and just as importantly with our fellow emergency service colleagues. Our highly-skilled clinicians ensured that the most seriously injured patients were prioritised but also that many patients were able to be discharged at the scene without the need for hospital treatment. We hope that people find the programme both interesting and informative."
Jemma Martinez said: "We all know how frustrating it can be to be stuck on the motorway or on the road into work when there has been an accident and roads can be closed for a long time. But what we don’t often see is all the hard work going on behind the scenes where the emergency services are trying to free the people who might be trapped and attend to those who might be severely injured. And then what happens after that, once the scene has been cleared. This gave us the perfect opportunity to do exactly that - from start to finish."
Told from the points of view of those at the heart of the accident, this documentary uses testimonies from individuals trapped in vehicles, those injured in the incident and the emergency service staff who attended the scene throughout the day. The dramatic reconstructions alongside archive news footage help to build a vivid insight into how the people involved felt and acted in the moment and the way the Sheppey Crossing crash changed their lives.
Producer Jemma Martinez ended: "It’s a drama documentary, so of course we have the heightened emotion, the initial chaos of the crash, and the race against time, but marry that with all the great facts, stories and experiences from the day, and it really gave us some incredible material to make such an intense documentary, which we hope viewers will find insightful."
CRASH: Anatomy of an accident is broadcast on Tuesday 10th May 2016 at 9pm on ITV, or will be available for catch-up on the ITV Hub.