Anger over 'jammed door' as Bristol coach catches fire
A passenger fears someone could have been seriously hurt after he tried – and failed – to open an emergency exit when the coach he was travelling on caught fire in Bristol.
Colin Walkington was on yesterday's 9.25am 040 Bristol to London National Express coach, on his way to watch Arsenal take on Celtic at the Emirates Stadium in the Champions League.
But at about 10.30am, as the coach containing 48 passengers travelled along the M4 between junctions 18 and 17, he sensed all was not well.
"I was sat one row from the back and I started to smell some fumes," said the 43-year-old, of The Clifford, Lawrence Weston. "At first I thought it was just coming from a lorry or something.
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"I opened the toilet door and thick black smoke started coming out so I shouted to the bus driver to pull over."
The support worker added: "There was a mother and her two kids sitting nearby and people started to scream.
"I tried to open the emergency exit near the toilet to let the smoke out but I couldn't.
"I booted it twice but it still wouldn't open. It was jammed shut."
Everyone got off the 49-seater safely through the front door, but shortly afterwards it went up in flames and smoke continued to billow into the air as the vehicle stood on the hard shoulder.
Mr Walkington added: "Thank God the fire was not at the front or we could have been trapped on the coach."
The Arsenal fan complained that when the coach was evacuated and passengers got on to two passing National Express coaches, there was no head done to see if everyone had got off safely.
He is also unhappy with what he saw as a lack of communication when, at nearby Leigh Delamere services, he says passengers were told another coach would come to pick them up later, but no time was given.
Mr Walkington decided to call off his trip and got his friend Reg Perkins to pick him up and take him home, where he watched the football match on TV last night.
He said he was going to contact National Express to ask for compensation for the £52 match ticket and £8 coach fare.
A spokeswoman for National Express said an engineer tried the rear fire exit after the fire had been put out and had no problem opening it.
She said: "All customers were safely directed off the coach by the driver before all, but Mr Walkington, travelled to their onward destination by replacement services.
"Customers were met by National Express customer service staff at London Victoria.
"In being prepared for this type of emergency situation we follow strict procedures, with the priority of moving people off the motorway. We have started an investigation into the cause of the fire."