Updated: A SUSPECTED car thief was under police guard in hospital last night after driving the wrong way up the A64 and causing a three-car crash.

Witnesses said they had to swerve to avoid the Vauxhall Insignia as it careered towards them near Fulford Interchange.

It collided with two other cars moments later near Grimston Bar (see map below), in a smash that closed the A64 for six hours and brought chaos to much of York, as motorists were diverted through the city. The Press understands the Insignia was being followed by police on the other carriageway before the smash.

The male Insignia driver was arrested on suspicion of stealing a vehicle, and was last night in York Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Another man, who was driving a Toyota Avensis involved in the crash, suffered a fractured wrist and broken foot, while a woman from South Yorkshire who was driving a blue Mini escaped uninjured.

The crash happened just before 11.15am but the A64 was not fully re-opened until 5.20pm.

Witness Shane White had to swerve to avoid the Insignia and described the incident as like “something out of a movie”.

He said: “It literally was a split-second decision and I knew someone was going to get hurt. He was travelling at high speed and police cars were following him on the other carriageway.”

Another man, from Acomb, who gave his name only as Tom, was on a driving lesson when he saw the Insignia coming towards him.

He said: “I would guess he was doing at least 90 to 100 mph. The driver of the car then wove between myself and a car in the left lane.

“I looked back through the rear-view mirror and there was a Jeep with a trailer that must have swerved to avoid the oncoming car causing the trailer to start to move quite erratically from side to side.”

He said he initially thought the Insignia driver may have made a mistake to end up on the wrong carriageway.

He said: “After seeing two police cars followed by another three or four later on, I then assumed he was trying to evade the police.

“Just as I was almost home I saw a fire engine rushing along the A1237 toward the A64 so I then thought they must have crashed.”

Another witness, Sally Clayden, said the Insignia went “flying past” her near the roundabout outside York Designer Outlet.

She said: “The car sped around the roundabout twice, then took the second exit, doing well over 60mph in the wrong direction.”

Motorist Chris Webster, 18, was heading towards Scarborough when he got caught in the queues.

He said on Twitter that he was stuck for 45 minutes, and said: “The crash looked very bad.”

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman confirmed “police attention had been drawn” to the Vauxhall before the collision, but said it would be inappropriate to comment further until a full investigation had been completed.

The Toyota driver, believed to be from York, was taken to York Hospital with a fractured wrist and a broken foot. Police said the driver of the Mini, a woman from South Yorkshire, was uninjured.

The eastbound carriageway was reopened shortly before 3pm but the westbound carriageway remained closed until 5.20pm.

Witnesses are asked to phone Sgt Andy Quigley, of North Yorkshire Police, on 0845 6060247.

11.40am update: Police say the Insignia driver, a 25-year-old man from West Yorkshire, remains in a stable condition in hospital and under police guard. He is receiving treatment for a chest injury. The Avensis driver also remains in hospital in a stable condition.