An investigation has been launched after a motorcyclist died when he collided with another biker and a horse on a major Hampshire road.
The accident on the A31 closed the road as well as the M27 last night causing traffic chaos across west Hampshire.
Drivers spent hours stuck in the seven miles of queues and the road did not reopen until the early hours of this morning.
The two motorcyclists were rushed to hospital after coming off their motorbikes, which were left in pieces scattered across the A31. One man later died from his injuries.
There were chaotic scenes as hundreds of motorists were left trapped on the notorious stretch of road for more than five hours as the roads were closed as police investigations got under way.
But the mayhem on the roads began much earlier when the runaway horse brought traffic on the A31 to a standstill for motorists during the evening rush hour.
The drama first started to unfold just after 5pm when police received reports of a horse on the loose on the A31, close to Picket Post.
Chaos ensued as officers took to the road on foot to search for the runaway nag, while motorists heading westbound were forced to a standstill as the search got under way.
Frustrated drivers had no option but to sit in their cars and wait as they watched officers with flashlights scouring through bushes and undergrowth for the lost horse.
But an hour later, it seemed as though they had everything under control. The traffic began to move and two motorcycles were seen surging forward in the traffic.
However, moments later, those motorists relieved to be moving were brought to an abrupt halt and there they remained for several hours as emergency services flocked to the area from all directions.
The two motorcyclists were taken to different hospitals where police last night said one of them had died. Police last night described the surviving man’s condition as “serious”.
Miles of tailbacks began to build up and as drivers lucky enough not to be trapped on the stretch of closed road were urged to avoid the area. All other routes in the surrounding areas, such as Lyndhurst, quickly got clogged with traffic, causing huge tailbacks as people tried to get home.
Drivers started to vent their anger on social media because they were getting no information from the emergency services.
Some emerged from their cars, walking towards the front of the queue in the hope of finding out what was causing the delay, while others just sat waiting with their engines running, too cold to switch them off.
One motorist even hopped out with his Spaniel and used the time to take it for a walk.
On social media people were contacting the Daily Echo. One driver, Paul Smale, tweeted “can trapped people be turned around please? Highways authorities saying 12am reopening. Thoughts with victims. Very sad.”
Another stuck motorist Fred Austin added “stuck on the A31 moved about 100yrds in three hours #nightmare”.
As news started to drip through at around 7.30pm that the road was likely to be closed until midnight, many feared they would be spending the night in their cars, but to their relief police were able to get them out.
Daily Echo editor Ian Murray was just one of the motorists stuck in his car for more than three hours, and spoke of his relief as the traffic slowly began to move.
He said: “Police created a route through the debris left by two motorcyclists that had crashed.
“Drivers had to drive care fully through scattered parts of the bikes using both lanes, with police using flashlights to direct the traffic.
“The two bikes, one yellow and one red, were lying on their sides, on opposite sides of the road on the westbound side of the dual carriageway, with a great deal of small sections of the machines scattered everywhere.”
Others, fed up of waiting without any information from officers, began turning around and driving the wrong way up the carriageway in an attempt to get home, sparking further criticism for the police’s handling of the incident.
Jonathan Covill tweeted: “A31 trapped cars now doing U-turns and going the wrong way as no police instructions.
“Accident clearly awful but Hampshire police making situation worse”.
Colin Draper, from the Verderers of the New Forest, the organisation that works to protect and administer the area’s agricultural communing practices, said police and agisters were investigating what happened.
He said: “We now that there was a pony involved and it appears to have got onto the carriageway from the forest.
“We’re obviously very anxious to know how it got there, but at the moment we just don’t know.”
A Highways Agency spokesman said: “Our sympathies are with the family and friends of those involved in the incident that took place on the A31 near Ringwood last night.
“An investigation into the cause of the incident is being carried out by Hampshire Police and, as such, it would be inappropriate for the Highways Agency to comment on the cause.”
The Daily Echo has also asked for an update on safety measures for the road.
The crash happened on the same stretch of road that claimed the life of 16-year-old hairdresser Jade Clark in February last year.
The teenager was struck by the car of Brian Hampton as she travelled along the busy road near Ringwood, further west from the scene of last night’s accident.
Cruel Hampton, himself a father-of-two, briefly stopped at the scene before driving off, which left the youngster exposed to fast-moving traffic.
She was struck by one or more vehicles and died at the scene from her injuries.
Her death sparked calls for the road’s speed limit to be reduced from 70mph to 50mph, with councillors, MPs and the Police Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes heading to Government to appeal for the change. But their hopes were crushed when Transport Minister Stephen Hammond rejected their calls.
Anyone who witnessed the incident should contact Totton Roads Policing Unit by calling 101 quoting Operation Hedingham.