Three people were killed in a motorway crash early yesterday as they returned home from the V music festival in Staffordshire.

The fatal accident happened on the M25 at about 3am when a blue Vauxhall Zafira carrying six people hit a ditch and overturned after going down an embankment between junctions 28 and 29.

Essex Fire Service said the group, all believed to be in their late teens or early 20s, were travelling home from the V Festival which had been staged over the weekend at Weston Park in Staffordshire.

The twin-site festival was also held at Chelmsford in Essex.

Two people, a man and a woman, were thrown from the car and declared dead at the scene, the East of England Ambulance Service said.

A man sitting in the front passenger seat also died at the scene. The female driver was trapped in the car for about an hour as firefighters battled to free her.

Steve Brant, an Ambulance Service Incident Support Unit manager who was called to the scene, said: "The driver, a woman, suffered very serious injuries and was trapped in the vehicle for about an hour while we worked with fire crews to safely remove her from the car. Her condition was stabilised on the scene and she was taken to Darent Valley Hospital."

A man and a woman sitting in the back of the vehicle suffered minor injuries, and were taken to Darent Valley Hospital in Kent and Oldchurch Hospital in Essex respectively, Mr Brant said.

The Metropolitan Police said it was informing next of kin and awaiting details as to the conditions of those injured. Police asked for anyone who witnessed the incident to contact the Collision Investigation Unit at Chadwell Heath Traffic Garage on 020 8597 4874. The stretch of motorway between junctions 28 and 29 was reopened to traffic shortly before noon.

Meanwhile, as revellers started leaving Weston Park yesterday morning, causing congestion on the A41, the M54 and the M6, the Staffordshire event was hailed a success by local police.

Chief Inspector Peter Taylor, of Staffordshire Police, said although arrests went up to 83 this year in comparison with 81 last year, the number of people coming to the festival had increased from 72,000 to 85,000, and only a very small minority had been intent on criminal activity.

"Early indications are that reported crime level is notably down against previous years which is a huge success for everyone involved in the operation," he said.

"The nature of the crowd was excellent, with very few incidents of violence reported.

"There have been a number of positive comments received from members of the public who have felt re-assured by the police presence.

"The success and safe operation of all the agencies, and the promoters Roseclaim, worked extremely well to ensure a safe and low-crime environment."

A total of 284 people were cautioned for possessing drugs and 301 crimes were reported.

Police said they seized 1,200 ecstasy tablets, 200 wraps of cocaine, two kilograms of cannabis, 50 wraps of amphetamines and a "quantity" of other drugs and pills.

A series of pro-active measures were used by police, including plain-clothed officers targeting areas and offenders with the assistance of CCTV, Automated Number Plate Recognition and the security staff on site.

Sniffer dogs were on the site to search for drugs while people who had previously been arrested in connection with drugs misuse were written to in advance of the festival and advised not to attend.