A man has died after a lorry veered off the M27 and hit an overhead gantry plunging Southampton into traffic chaos.

The crash involving a Mercedes lorry, Nissan Juke and Volkswagen Polo happened just after 12.30pm yesterday.

It led to the westbound carriageway of the motorway being closed well into rush hour between junction seven in Hedge End and junction five for Southampton Airport.

For the latest on this incident, read our live blog here.

Despite paramedics' best efforts the driver of the lorry, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene. His family have been notified and are being supported by specially trained officers.

Lanes three and four of the eastbound carriageway were also closed.

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Several hours after the horror crash into the evening the lorry caught fire and a gantry was damaged.

After launching an investigation, last night police said three people were arrested.

They were a 32-year-old man, a 37-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman, all of no fixed abode, on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. They have been taken to hospital.

Officers remained at the scene yesterday night as the westbound carriageway between junctions five and seven was closed overnight. Drivers were also asked to avoid the area and to check before travelling in the morning.

A police spokesperson said: "We apologise for any inconvenience caused and will update you when we have further details on the circumstances of the collision.

"Please could motorists avoid the area and check before you travel in the morning. We once again thank you for your patience."

Photos shared on social media, but the Echo chose not to publish, showed a black car with the front end crumpled up and the lorry wrapped around the gantry, having apparently crashed through the barriers at the side of the road.

One of the drivers caught up in the wake of the collision was Martin March.

An hour after the crash, he told the Echo while sat in his car: “I joined traffic slowing to a standstill just past the on slip at Hedge End at 12.30pm and have been here ever since.

"My thoughts go out to all those involved in what I can only imagine is a serious incident."

He added: "The people I've been chatting to are all in good spirits. We can't do anything else but wait, so in between the worst of the rain everyone is out the cars chatting to one another about every day life and plans for the rest of the day."

Another Facebook user who got caught up in the traffic, Hazel Fitzgerald, said: “I am currently sat in this traffic and with the amount of ambulances, fire engines and police that came past it’s got to be a nasty crash.

She added: “Someone could have aquaplaned with the amount of surface water that’s on the road. Either way, I hope everyone involved is okay.”

Another driver, who chose not be named said: “It looks really bad. We saw ambulances and police cars rushing past us and other people started to stop their cars.”

Another driver, Kathryn Nicholls, commented on Facebook: “It’s tragic. Feel for everyone involved. We are sat in it now and have been for two hours. Praying that everyone involved is ok.”

Police and traffic officers helped drivers stuck on the M27 turn around and leave the motorway via the way they came.

As the hours passed and the motorway remained closed while emergency services responded to the crash, Southampton and Hedge End descended into gridlock.

In the city, Woodmill Lane, Bursldeon Road, Bitterne Road West and Northam Bridge were particularly badly affected.

The fire service confirmed that crews from Fareham, Hightown, St Mary’s and Redbridge helped police at the scene.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance were also called, but they were stood down en route to the crash.

Pictures by uknip.co.uk