EIGHT people were injured when a Southampton-bound coach crashed down an embankment and overturned after the driver lost consciousness.

The vehicle, carrying cruise passengers due to set sail from the city, left the carriageway on the southbound M3 after the driver fell ill.

Fire crews had to rescue two people from the coach, which is registered in Holland and was carrying 26 passengers.

Three people were taken to hospital following the crash, which happened yesterday shortly after 6pm near Fleet. The others were treated at the scene.

One of the injured suffered serious injuries, although they were not thought to be life-threatening. It is believed they had suffered a fractured or broken bone, although more details are not yet available.

The others taken to hospital were said to have sustained minor injuries.

A spokesman for Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the three had since been discharged from the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke.

Police closed the southbound M3 between junctions 4a and 5 while the recovery operation took place, causing serious tailbacks.

Fire crews from across the county were sent to the scene shortly after 6.30pm, and Hampshire Fire and Rescue said its teams had extricated two people from the coach.

Crews from Rushmoor, Hartley Wintney and Basingstoke all attended, as well as the Special Equipment Unit based at Basingstoke and a senior officer.

Police said several people were treated on the scene.

It is understood those passengers who were not taken to hospital have been brought to Southampton, where they spent the night in a hotel ahead of their cruise today.
All on board were Dutch nationals.