Three British tourists including a child have been killed after the SUV they were in plunged off a bridge in Iceland today.
A further four Britons – two of them children – were critically injured in the accident, which took place at Skeidararsandur, a vast sand plain in southern Iceland, at around 9.30am.
The seven-seat Toyota Land Cruiser was carrying four adults and three children when it fell more than 26ft off a bridge in freezing temperatures nearly two hours before sunrise.
Police said the road was not thought to be icy but humidity could have made the surface slippery for the SUV, which was driving eastbound.
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Three British tourists including a child have been killed after the SUV they were in plunged off a bridge in Iceland today. Emergency services are pictured at the scene
Witnesses described horrifying scenes at the crash site, where a silver-coloured SUV lay crumpled on its roof beneath the bridge
Tour guide Adolf Erlingsson was among the first on the scene, and said it appeared the car (pictured) had hit the ground several yards from where it stopped
A further four Britons – two of them children – were critically injured in the accident, which took place at Skeidararsandur, a vast sand plain in southern Iceland, at around 9.30am (file picture shows the bridge where it is understood the crash happened)
The vehicle slammed through a railing on the 46-year-old, one-lane crossing, before landing on a rocky river bank.
Chief Superintendent Sveinn Kristjan Runarsso said the four injured have been taken to hospital with serious injuries, but added that ‘we haven’t been able to talk to them about what happened’.
Tour guide Adolf Erlingsson was among the first on the scene.
‘It was horrible,’ he said. ‘The car seemed to have hit the ground many meters from where it stopped. We struggled getting everyone out.’
Skeidararsandur sand plain: A huge, barren wasteland surrounded by glaciers and volcanoes
This morning’s crash, which killed four people, happened in freezing conditions nearly two hours before sunrise.
It took place on a bridge over Skeidararsandur, a vast sand plain of 808 square-miles.
The area was formed by deposits carried in melt water from the nearby Vatnajökull glacier.
Virtually nothing grows on Skeidararsandur, which has a rocky terrain by the glacier itself before becoming sandy and muddy towards the sea.
It was a major barrier to Iceland’s Route 1, leading to the bridge where this morning’s incident took place being built in 1973.
The structure was badly damaged in 1996 after flood water and debris cascaded through its base in 1996 following an eruption of the nearby Grímsvötn volcano.
He told local newspaper
‘I went to check to see if I could help, and with the two policemen went into the car to try and pull people out. It was naturally horrific – there was a man with two little children lying on either side of him, who were still conscious.
‘The man thought he was dying and could not move. One of the officers was trying to calm him down, give him a drink, and get him to stay awake.’
Now describing the driver, Mr Erlingsson said he was conscious and talking. ‘I told him to save his energy and be quiet,’ he said.
The guide said he believes the people in the car were a family, but police have not confirmed this.
Authorities say it remains unclear what caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle.
All of the injured have been transported from the scene in a Coast Guard helicopter and taken to a hospital in the capital Reykjavík.
The bridge was built in 1973 and is 420 yards long, making it the second-longest in the country.
Mr Erlingsson said the crash occurred in an area that was “the most popular destination on the south coast”.
The crash happened just south of Skaftafell National Park, part of the Vatnajokull National Park, which was nominated for inclusion in Unesco’s World Heritage List in 2018.
Casualties from this morning’s crash arrive in an emergency helicopter at a hospital in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík
All of the injured have been transported from the scene in a Coast Guard helicopter (pictured) and taken to a hospital in the capital Reykjavík
Police say it remains unclear what caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle. Pictured: One of the casualties arrives at hospital in Reykjavík
One of the casualties is wheeled over the tarmac and into the hospital as Coast Guard officers brief medics on the situation
The Vatnajokull glacier is the largest in Europe, covering 8% of Iceland’s landmass including the island’s tallest peak Hvannadalshnjukur at 2,200 metres tall (7,218ft).
Tourists flock to the area to enjoy hiking, camping and sightseeing flights.
South of the national park is the Skeidararsandur, a vast sand plain formed from alluvial deposits, with little vegetation, with the Nupsvotn glacial lakes on its western boundary.
MailOnline has contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for comment.
Tourists are urged to monitor the country’s road safety and weather websites, the Foreign Office adds.
A police vehicle at a roadblock on Route 1 in Iceland, near the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, near where today’s incident took place
A further four people were critically injured in the accident, in Núpsvötn, south of Vatnajökull glacier at around 9.30am