THREE men were killed and another was injured in a three-car crash in a notorious accident spot.

The tragedy happened on a dual carriageway near the foot of a steep hill known as Wilderness Brae in Cumbernauld

A silver Mercedes heading northbound from the town towards the M80 appeared to veer out of control on the sweeping downhill left hand bend and crossed the central reservation.

It then collided with a dark Ford Focus, which was beginning its ascent of the hill.

The 30-year-old driver of the Mercedes died at the scene, while the 34-year-old driver of the Focus and his 46-year-old passenger were also declared dead on the road. Dozens of firefighters were involved in cutting the men from the cars.

A light blue/silver Fiat Punto was also hit in the crash and the 71-year-old driver in that car was rushed to Monklands Hospital by air ambulance.

After receiving treatment for his injuries, he was discharged.

After the crash at 12.45pm yesterday, a fleet of police cars, a fire engine and ambulances were at the scene for most of the afternoon and the evening.

Police closed both sides of the dual carriageway to begin investigating the tragedy.

The mangled cars were covered up by tarpaulin and a large steel barrier was erected around the scene.

Police were forced to ask people who worked nearby and who used a walkway beside the carriageway to avoid the area so they would not see what was happening.

The road closures caused chaos as heavy traffic built up around the scene.

The A8011 Central Way between Seafar Road and the M80 Junction 6 was closed, causing heavy traffic to build between Braehead Roundabout and Old Inns Junction.

The northbound road remained shut into the evening.

Inspector Keith Prentice, at the Divisional Road Policing Unit at Motherwell, said the cause of the crash was not known.

The speed limit on the stretch of road is 50mph – it was reduced several years ago from 70mph after a similar deadly crash – but it is not known if speed was a factor in the latest tragedy.

Inspector Prentice said: "We will consider all possible factors. This is a busy dual carriageway between Cumbernauld town centre towards the M80."

The inspector appealed for witnesses to contact police.

He said: "Our inquiries have revealed that several motorists stopped at the scene just after the crash happened, and I would like to appeal to those people, who may have crucial information, to get in touch with officers."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Motherwell police office on 01698 483000.

Local people again criticised safety procedures on the road.

Marie Murphy, 44, who works in the Spur Hotel, which is about 200 yards from where the smash happened, said crash barriers should be in place in the grass central reservation.

She said: "This crash is very similar to the last accident tragedy there.

"It's very well known in the town that it's a bad road to drive on."

A spokesman from North Lanarkshire Council said: "A police investigation is under way and it would be inappropriate for us to comment now."