EMERGENCY workers say it was a “miracle” no one was killed after a double-decker bus packed with college students crashed before flipping on to its side yesterday morning.
The 13-tonne bus careered off the road near Lytchett Minster, ending in a field at the bottom of a steep, eight-foot embankment.
Panick-stricken students were forced to escape through the rear windows after clambering over broken glass and smashed seats.
The fully-trained driver, a 27-year-old Poole man who was treated for shock, was being tutored on the route when the crash happened.
Seven students and the driver were taken to Poole hospital. Twenty-two more were treated for minor scrapes and bruises. The remaining 26 students, all aged between 16 and 18, escaped largely unhurt.
The accident happened on the A350, just north of the Upton roundabout. The bus - the First Bus route D - was travelling from Kinson, Bournemouth to the college it overturned into a field at 8.15am.
The air ambulance, six ambulances and the fire brigade were called to the scene, with 15 firefighters working at the scene for an hour and a half.
The remaining students, described as "walking wounded" by the ambulance service, were taken from the bus to a triage centre at Gravel Hill police station for treatment.
The road was closed at Limberlost, the Upton bypass and Vines Farm Shop and police accident investigators have been at the scene all day trying to establish what happened.
The road has been reopened to traffic using temporary traffic lights and the bus is still at the scene.
One student said: "I have never been so scared in my life. I feel so lucky to be alive and would like to thank the kind men who helped us escape."
A spokesman for First Hampshire and Dorset said: "The exact cause of the incident is not yet known but it will be thoroughly investigated.
"Our thoughts are with those who have sustained injuries as a result of this incident; we wish them all a full and speedy recovery.
“Our team attended the scene and are now working with the relevant authorities to determine the cause. Safety is our number one priority. All of our drivers are fully trained and hold all relevant qualifications before transporting passengers, as well as undergoing specific learning on each route.
"As is normal industry procedure, today's driver was being monitored by an experienced colleague as part of that process."
Kingston Maurward College Principal Clare Davison said: “The safety and well-being of our students is our top priority and obviously we are extremely concerned about this incident.
“We have set up a team at the college and we are liaising directly with the emergency services. We are talking to First Buses and will work closely with the police to understand how this occurred. We will also be offering additional support to the students involved.
“We are calling all parents and guardians of students affected and have set up a direct line for them to contact us. Anyone concerned can call 07894 751302.”
Do you know anyone who was on the bus or did you see what happened? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.