A horror crash on the M27 which saw a lorry driver killed and three people arrested led to traffic chaos.

Southampton and the south of Hampshire ground to a halt yesterday as the westbound carriageway between junctions 5 and 9 was closed for more than 35 hours due to the tragic crash on Wednesday lunchtime.

By midnight last night, the stretch had reopened, with one lane still closed for further repairs.

Workers had raced against the clock to remove an overhead gantry damaged by the HGV lorry, which veered off the westbound carriageway and hit the large sign near Hedge End.

READ MORE: Lorry on fire after M27 crash at Southampton Airport junction

On Wednesday evening, the lorry burst into flames while it was being recovered.

Police say the crash involved a Mercedes lorry, Nissan Juke and Volkswagen Polo and happened just after 12.30pm on Wednesday.

Despite paramedics' best efforts, the lorry driver - a man in his 30’s - was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Hampshire police has said that the man’s family have been notified and are being supported by specially trained officers.

A 32-year-old man, a 37-year-old man and a 40-year-old woman, all of no fixed abode, were arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

They were taken to hospital and were still being questioned by officers as of 4.30pm yesterday.

A spokesperson from Hampshire fire service, who also attended, said: "Crews were called to attend an road traffic collision on the M27 just after 12.30 on Wednesday 21 February.

"HIWFRS maintained a presence at the scene until around 03:15 Thursday morning.

"Investigations are ongoing at this stage so we are not able to provide further information.

"As is usual practice when there is a significant incident, we will be reviewing our operational response to aid organisational learning."

The impact of the closure has been felt across Hampshire with delays present throughout Southampton, Portsmouth, Fareham, Titchfield, Whiteley, Hedge End, Eastleigh and many other locations across the region.

Delays of up to three hours were being reported in some places, with drone images showing the extent of the gridlock in Segensworth.

Hampshire Constabulary warned drivers to only travel, if necessary, with a police spokesperson saying: "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 on Thursday morning. We once again thank you for your patience."

Photos shared on Facebook by drivers showed a black Volkswagen Polo 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.

Hours after the fatal M27 crash, at around 7:45pm on Wednesday, the lorry involved in the collision burst into flames – further delaying the reopening of the Westbound lanes.

Emergency crews from National Highways worked through Wednesday night and Thursday to remove the gantry that had been damaged by the lorry fire and the crash.

A spokesperson from National Highways said yesterday afternoon that the carriageway would remain closed up until last night so the gantry removal works could be carried out - but added that it was 'unknown how long it would take'.

Mark Hallett, National Highways Operations Manager in the South East, said: “Any loss of life on our network is a tragedy and our thoughts are with those affected by what happened yesterday.

“This is a complex situation and removing the damaged gantry will take a number of hours. This is a structure that is 9m tall and spans multiple lanes of traffic.

“The safety of those travelling on our network is our number one priority and keeping the entire carriageway closed is the safest way for us to remove the gantry.

“My advice to road users is please avoid the area. If that’s not possible, please allow yourself extra time to complete your journey.”

Southampton City Council warned motorists that many of the routes into the city were at a stand still due to the increased volume of traffic.

Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, a spokesperson from the council said: “Due to the ongoing M27 westbound closure, we are seeing increased traffic on the network throughout the City.

“Maybray King Way to Northam Road, Millbrook Road West and Woodmill are especially busy. Please allow extra time and plan your journey.”

Residents have taken to social media to tell of their travel misfortunes on Thursday, as National Highways warns that the closure of the M27 is likely to remain in place until the evening.

One resident said: “I think they should’ve shut Bitterne Park School as the traffic is at a standstill from Mouse Hole Lane through to Woodmill.

Another resident said that in circumstances such as these, as many drivers as possible should stay off of the roads.

He said: “Those who can work from home, for example office workers, should do so and leave the roads free for those who really need them.

“Delivery drivers, retail workers, hospital staff and GP workers are the priority. Everyone else needs to stay off the roads.”

Despite many on social media bashing the unprecedented traffic situation, hundreds of Echo followers took the opportunity to say condolences to the man that has died in the crash.

One user wrote: “My thoughts and condolences go to the family of the driver who sadly passed away.”