A BRIDE-to-be remains seriously ill in hospital after a minibus carrying friends and family to a hen party was involved in a motorway crash in West Yorkshire.
Bethany Jones, 18, was killed and eight women seriously injured when their bus collided with a lorry on the M62 near Pontefract on Friday.
The family of the teenager, reported to be studying for a nursing degree at Leeds University, said she would never be forgotten.
“Beth was a fun and bubbly girl who was caring and considerate to everyone she met,” they said. “She was the apple of her grandad’s eye and she will never be forgotten and sadly missed by everyone.”
The crash happened at about 11.30am on Friday after the hen party set off from nearby South Elmsall to travel to Liverpool.
In total 21 women were injured in the collision. Eight remain in hospital in a “serious but stable condition”, West Yorkshire Police said, one of whom is in intensive care.
Among them is the bride-to-be, named in reports as Stefanie Firth.
The driver of the lorry was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and has been released on bail, police said.
The collision, near a motorway slip road, left the minibus on its side across a carriageway and luggage strewn across the motorway.
One patient, a woman in her 40s, suffered suspected serious chest injuries and was anaesthetised before being transported, while another was airlifted to hospital also with chest injuries.
Firefighters called the crash “the worst they had seen in a number of years”, and six air ambulances helped rush the victims to nearby hospitals.
One of the first at the scene to help was off-duty firefighter John Nichol, the Sunday Mirror said, who was passing in his father’s car.
“I got out to see if I could help, and realised there was only me back there,” he told the newspaper. “First I saw a lady at the back of the minibus and realised her leg was severely broken. Then I put my head through the roof and just was a mass of bodies.
“I think there were 11 or 12 in there, with various injuries, and around five people were out of the vehicle, hobbling around.
“I tried to calm people down and, although a bystander had called 999, I called them back to say this was a major incident and that several resources and air ambulances would be needed.”
Tributes to the victims and messages of support flooded on to Facebook yesterday.
One of the group, Ashleigh Warner, had expressed her excitement about the planned hen party just hours earlier on the social networking site.
She wrote on her Facebook page: “Jumping on the Liverpool status bandwagon ......... Cos I’m sooooooo excited had my tshirt on since 8 this morning:))) hope Stefanie Firth has the best time xxxx”
Holly Jackson wrote on Ms Jones’ Facebook page: “RIP Beth hope ur family are holding up. Xx”
Brian Capstick, a councillor for South Elmsall, who knows the family, said the tragedy would hit the community hard.
“The community is completely stunned with what’s happened,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“It’s a very tragic accident. It’s affected a lot of lives, what you’ve got to appreciate is it’s a very close knit ex-mining community.
“A lot of the young girls that were involved and the mothers who where involved with them, are all inter-related, very strong ties being an ex-mining community.
“Many would have attended Minsthorpe high school and known each other from school through their lives.”
He added: “I have been speaking to friends and relatives who have attended the hospital, some of the injuries are absolutely horrendous. It really is tragic, it’s dawning on people locally what the effect will be.”
South Elmsall resident Doreen Gray, 70, described seeing the group of women get onto the minibus near the town’s bus station half an hour before the collision.
“They were all wearing pink, that’s what caught my eye. They were all in great spirits so it’s devastating to hear what has happened,” she told the Pontefract and Castleford Express.
Police have urged anyone who is concerned about a family member or who witnessed the crash to contact them on 101.