UPDATE: M5 remains closed in Devon after two serious crashes
A section of the M5 in Devon has been completely closed in both directions for the second time this afternoon following two serious collisions.
The southbound and northbound carriageways of the M5 near Cullompton have been closed for the second time following a four-vehicle pile-up at 3.45pm. The motorway is expected to remain closed for several hours.
The road had initially been closed at 1.35pm following a head-on collision between a red Volkswagen Camper van and a silver Vauxhall Tigra.
Both carriageways of the motorway were closed between Junction 28 (Cullompton Services) and Junction 29 (A30 Exeter) while the Devon Air Ambulance landed.
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Devon and Cornwall Police said the camper van, which is registered to an address in London, was travelling northbound when it veered into the central reservation and across onto the southbound carriageway before colliding head-on with the Tigra, which is registered to Exeter.
Both drivers sustained serious injuries and were trapped within their vehicles. Fire crews had to cut the casualties free and the Devon Air Ambulance landed on the motorway to collect one injured person before airlifting them to hospital at around 2.45pm.
The southbound carriageway was still completely closed to motorists and emergency services were still dealing with the aftermath of that collision when four-vehicles collided on the one open lane of the northbound carriageway at around 3.45pm.
Police are unsure how the multi-vehicle crash happened and said they had only just reopened one lane of the northbound carriageway following the earlier crash.
Officers aid a white HGV lorry, a black Ford Focus, a black Honda Accord and a black Honda Jazz collided on a section known as ‘Hele Straight’.
At least two people sustained serious injuries in that crash and emergency crews were forced to close the motorway again to allow the Devon Air Ambulance to land for the second time today. Both casualties have been taken to Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.
Police, fire, several land ambulances and a medical team remain at the scene. The Devon and Cornwall Police helicopter has also been hovering over the scene to assess the extent of the crashes and traffic jams.
At 5.10pm, Devon and Cornwall Police said the northbound carriageway was expected to remain closed for several hours.
The closure has already caused chaos for motorists across Devon, with several stuck in gridlocked traffic on the motorway.
Police said several motorists had stopped at the scene to help after witnessing the first collision.
Others took to Twitter to share news of the crash and subsequent traffic queues.
@IJN3 wrote: "Stuck in terrible accident on M5. Looks like a really bad one. Cullompton junction. Not nice just before Christmas!"
Mark Ormrod, @R4MM3R5, said: "Sat in the middle lane of the M5 surrounded by cars with engines off & lights off! Gonna be a long night!!!"
And former Exeter City and Torquay United footballer Chris Todd wrote: "Traffic around Exeter is horrendous ! As there's been a bad accident on the M5 #JustHope people involved Ok !"
Meanwhile, Hugh Griffiths, Devon County Council's Highway Operations Control Centre Manager, said he had never seen Exeter so "choked up" before.
The road is currently closed between Junction 28 (Cullompton Services) and Junction 29 (A30 Exeter). The on-slip of Junction 30 at (Exeter Services) is also closed at present.
A number of diversions remain in place at this time. All southbound traffic is advised to leave the M5 at Junction 28 and travel along the B3181, although there are reports of standstill traffic in the area.
Police are advising motorists to delay their journey for as long as possible or avoid the area completely.