Three British tourists including a child have been killed after the SUV they were inside plunged off a bridge in Iceland today.
A further four Britons – two of them children – were critically injured in the incident, which took place at the road crossing over 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, thought to be from two families, when it fell more than 26ft off the bridge in freezing temperatures nearly two hours before sunrise.
The victims of the crash were of Asian origin and British nationals, according to authorities, who said they were two couples, an eight-year-old girl, a nine-year-old boy and an infant. It is not yet clear which of the passengers died.
Tour guide Adolf Erlingsson was among the first on the scene in a barren, rocky area of the country known as the ‘black desert’. He said four people were outside the car, one of whom was dead. Another three were trapped inside, only one of whom was alive.
‘It was horrible,’ he said. ‘The car seemed to have hit the ground many meters from where it stopped. We struggled getting everyone out.’
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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 personnel are pictured at the scene near the crumpled remains of the Toyota Land Cruiser, which was carrying seven people
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)
Mr Erlingsson told a local newspaper: ‘I was driving when just before I got to the bridge I saw a flashing light and then a police car arrived.
‘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.’
Mr Erlingsson said the driver was stuck under the dashboard. ‘He was talking so I told him to save his energy and be quiet,’ he said.
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.
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.
The vehicle slammed through a railing on the 46-year-old, one-lane crossing, before landing on a rocky river bank.
Indian ambassador Armstrong Changsan visited the survivors in hospital and said: ‘The situation is very bad. Three people have died and one of them is an infant.
‘There were seven people. Two couples in their thirties and three children. The other two children are aged 8 and nine and are a girl and boy. The girl is in surgery.’
He said it was too early to establish the cause of the tragedy, and police had given him no indication of what had happened to cause the vehicle to go off the road.
He added: ‘I believe the family had come to Iceland to see the glaciers. There is a popular tourist site there.’
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’.
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 due to often difficult conditions, the Foreign Office adds.
Officials say 18 people have died on Iceland’s roads this year, half of them foreigners.
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