Three children who were hurt when a school bus hit a railway bridge suffered “potentially life-changing injuries”, police have said.
A further 12 suffered minor injuries when the double-decker’s roof was torn off in the crash in Winchester on Thursday. The 72 youngsters on board were aged between 11 and 16.
Parents have questioned why the bus was not on its designated route.
Operator Stagecoach said it was taking the circumstances “very seriously”.
A Hampshire Constabulary statement said the three most seriously injured children had needed surgery.
Officers said they also wanted to trace the driver of a blue Ford Focus who passed the bus shortly before the crash in Wellhouse Lane at 08:10 BST.
image captionAnxious parents rushed to the scene after the crash
Some of the children involved and their parents have been recalling the crash.
Heloise Callanan, whose 11-year-old daughter Poppy was on the bus, said: “I drove down there and saw the vast amount of emergency vehicles and later you realise what could have been and it hits you it could have been so, so much more serious.
“We want to know why that bus went that way when other buses went on a different route. Irrespective of it being a double decker – it shouldn’t have been going that way,” she added.
Poppy described how she and a friend on the top deck “shouted for everyone to duck” moments before the impact when she saw the bus approach the bridge.
“There was a lot of quite serious injuries – everyone was in tears,” she said.
“My friend’s brother had cuts all over his arms and his face.
“There was glass all over the floor – it was horrible.”
A Year 7 pupil, Kai, who is in his first year at the school, described being covered in glass.
“I got down and everyone else ducked their heads down and we all felt something whoosh across our heads,” he said.
“Everyone was screaming.”
image captionThe bus had been on its way to Henry Beaufort School
His mother Emmie Wael said: “He’s lucky to be alive and it’s lucky all those children are alive, to be honest. One of the police officers said it was a miracle all the kids made it out.”
Another pupil, Robert, 15, said: “When you got off the bus and looked back you could see the top cut off and people started to realise the extent of what happened and that they were injured.”
Police said the registration of the Focus they wanted to trace ended with HPX, and the vehicle had a roof rack and cycle carrier.
They also urged anyone who saw the bus on its journey from Itchen Abbas through Easton and Kingsworthy to contact them.
image captionThe children on board were all aged between 11 and 16
Hampshire County Council confirmed the vehicle had not been on a set bus route.
Rob Humby, the council’s executive member for highways and transport, said the issue of a warning sign on the bridge that appeared to have been partially obscured by trees would be part of the investigation being carried out, along with the police and bus operator Stagecoach.
The sign stated vehicles with a height of more than 12ft (3.6m) should not pass. The bus involved in the crash is thought to be about 14ft (4.3m) high.
“Any recommendations we will certainly implement. We’ll take any action we need to do immediately.
“We need to understand if there is anything that can be done to prevent something like this happening again,” he added.
A spokesperson for Stagecoach South said: “We are taking the circumstances of this incident very seriously and our thoughts remain with the children involved and their families.
“A full internal investigation is already under way into the circumstances and we will continue to assist the emergency services in any way that we can.”