A bus driver based at a King’s Lynn depot was killed in a two-vehicle crash on the A47.
Father-of-two Michael Elcombe, 45, died at the scene when the double-decker bus he was driving was involved in a collision with a lorry on the stretch between Guyhirn and Thorney at around 7.30am on Tuesday.
Passenger Brian Chapman, 76, of Kettering, who had been sitting at the top deck of the First Eastern bus, also died at the scene. He was understood to have been a regular Tuesday visitor to Lynn.
The lorry driver escaped injury but six of the bus passengers were seriously hurt. There were 17 passengers on board, most understood to be from Peterborough, and one from Hunstanton.
West Norfolk critical care paramedic Carl Smith, of Norfolk Accident Rescue Service, was among the rescue team.
He said: “A major incident was declared with multiple casualties. There were 10 ambulances as well as fire and the police. The passengers had been flung forwards and had hit their heads on the bars and windows. It was a traumatic scene.”
Five patients were sent to Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment.
A hospital spokesman said one patient had been discharged and the condition of the other four remained stable.
Other passengers were sent to Peterborough City Hospital and the scene was cleared in around three hours.
A friend of Mr Elcombe, of Swaffham, said she was devastated to learn he had died. “He loved the buses and had been a bus driver all in all for 20 years. He was so proud of his job,” she said.
Steve Wickers, managing director at First Eastern Counties said he was shocked and saddened.
In a statement issued Wednesday, he said: “I, along with my local team would like to send our sincere condolences to the families, friends and colleagues who have lost a loved one from the incident and to extend my thoughts to those who sustained injuries, who I hope all have speedy recoveries.
“I would also like to thank the police and the emergency services for their support in what was a very traumatic situation to manage.
“Today has been a challenge, especially for the colleagues and friends of Michael our driver at King’s Lynn bus depot, who sadly lost his life.
“But as true professionals and as dedicated as they are, our drivers have all come into work this morning and are providing a full service for customers wanting to travel on our Excel service between Peterborough, King’s Lynn and Norwich.”
North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham expressed his heartfelt sympathy to the families of the two victims.
Sir Henry said: “I visited the First Eastern King’s Lynn depot a few weeks back and was able to see for myself the dedication and professionalism among a small and close-knit family of drivers.
“I do know that losing one of their own in this way will be a grievous blow, and the thoughts and sympathies of the whole community are also with all of the other drivers and staff of First Eastern.
“There is obviously a full and complex ongoing inquiry by both the police and Highways England, as well as by First Eastern and the haulage company.
“I have myself made it clear to the Minister for Transport, if there are any lessons to be learnt from this, then it is essential he moves into action straight away.”