Two robbery suspects fleeing police were killed when their car careered across a dual carriageway at high speed, slammed into an oncoming coach and exploded, witnesses said today.
The hatchback was being pursued by officers called to reports of an aggravated burglary at a property in Harrow, 20 minutes earlier. At least nine police cars were involved and a police helicopter followed the chase from above.
Motorists described how they were forced to swerve out of the way before the car heading east towards central London veered on to the westbound carriageway and crashed to a halt at the junction with Kingsdown Avenue.
Armed police used fire extinguishers to control the flames before paramedics confirmed the two fatalities at the scene, the witnesses said.
A third person in the car was taken to a major trauma centre, while two other people were taken to hospital suffering from shock.
A motorist said: “I was driving when a car came flying past me. I quickly moved out the way, then police cars kept speeding past me. I counted about 10 that drove past me. Coming down to East Acton area, traffic came to a standstill and more police cars came through.”
He then saw a man lying motionless on the road. “He looked like he had been thrown from the car,” the man said. “He didn’t have a shirt on and he was next to a car which had gone through the metal fence.”
Another witness said: “The coach they crashed into was right behind me. So shaken, all I saw was instant flames.” The Renault was left a twisted wreckage with airbags deployed and doors wide open. The coach, painted with the livery of sailing school Rockley, had most of its front bumper torn away.
Investigations continued through the night with the stretch of the road, one of the main routes into the capital from the west, only reopening at 7.30am today, causing rush-hour delays.
Alec Lozanoski, 29, a neurophysiologist, said: “There was a massive screech and the blue lights everywhere. There were armed police and officers with fire extinguishers. It looked like the car had hit the coach very, very hard.
“The paramedics were trying to save them along with the police. There was a smell of fuel and chemicals from the fire extinguishers.”
Student Sohaila Rahman, 24, added: “I was home when I heard the police sirens. They were chasing a car, and then we heard a crash, like a really loud bang.
“I walked outside to see what had happened and it looked like a car had tried to turn on to the other side of the A40 when it crashed into a coach and went straight into the metal barrier.
“Police were everywhere, continuously coming. They tried to get passengers out of the car, I think there was three of them and they were completely stuck.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct has begun an investigation.
Last Thursday, Harrow residents attended a public meeting with police and their MP, Bob Blackman, to discuss a rise in aggravated burglaries.
Neighbours have grown concerned at the level of violent burglaries, including one where a teenage girl was held with a knife to her throat as a masked gang ransacked her family’s home.