An autism school has been left "devastated" after two members of staff were killed in a motorway crash involving a minibus and lorry.
Tragedy struck on the M4 on Thursday afternoon as a group from Prior’s Court in Berkshire returned to the specialist school after taking three young adults with severe autism to a work placement.
The school said two of its staff died at the scene, while three more, including the driver, were taken to hospital with serious injuries.
The three young adults were also taken for assessment and treatment, although they were not seriously hurt.
Mike Robinson, the school’s chief executive, said: "I speak on behalf of us all at Prior’s Court when I say we are devastated about the road traffic collision which happened today.
"I send my deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the two people who lost their lives.
"At this time, there are three further staff members receiving treatment and my thoughts are very much with them and their families.
"In such tragic circumstances, we are grateful that all the young people involved are safe and without serious injuries, and we will be doing everything we can to safeguard their wellbeing at hospital and upon their return."
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The M4 eastbound between junction 14 at Hungerford and junction 13 at Chieveley is currently closed. The road closure is likely to remain in place for several hours and drivers are being advised to avoid the area.
The M4 was closed in both directions as three air ambulances landed on the carriageway.
A spokesman for the South Central Ambulance Service said: "Three people in the minibus had sustained life-threatening injuries; one was flown to the major trauma centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, one went by road to the major trauma centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital, and the third was flown to the major trauma centre at Bristol Southmead Hospital.
"Three further people in the minibus had sustained less serious injuries, two of whom were taken by road to the Great Western Hospital, Swindon, and the third to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading.”
One motorist called it ‘the worst accident he’d seen’ as the M4 was closed in both directions.
Some motorists were stuck on the motorway for nearly four hours before traffic was gradually released past the scene, reports In Your Area .
A spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police said officers are working on turning around affected motorists and advised drivers to stay in their vehicles.
She said: "Thames Valley Police is currently on the scene of a serious road traffic collision on the M4 in West Berkshire.
"At around 12.20pm today (11/10) there was a collision between a heavy goods vehicle and a minibus.
"The westbound carriageway was temporarily closed to allow the air ambulance access to the scene and has since re-opened.
"The eastbound carriageway is likely to be closed for a significant amount of time and officers are working to turn affected motorists around.
Motorist James Lloyd wrote: "M4 closed due to worst accident I’ve ever seen in many years of driving.
"Avoid area and if you’re caught in the tail back be patient.
"I promise you don’t want to get past it until emergency services are finished."
Early information from South Central Ambulance Services confirmed people were trapped in their vehicles.
A spokesman said: "We currently have three ambulances, a silver officer, a paramedic team leader, the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and critical care car, as well as our Hazardous Area Response team at the scene."
He confirmed the Hazardous Area Response team was there to help the people trapped.
A spokeswoman from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "Two crews from Newbury Fire Station and the Heavy Rescue Unit from Dee Road Fire Station were sent to the scene, alongside crews from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.
"Crews supported South Central Ambulance Service and Thames Valley Police at the incident.
"They were on the scene for around two hours."
Anyone who may have seen what happened or who has dash-cam footage is asked to contact police.
If you have any information, please call the 24-hour Thames Valley Police enquiry centre on 101 quoting reference number URN 545 (11/10) or by using our online form .
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