Three people have been taken to hospital after part of a tree came down in strong winds and trapped them.

The women, one of whom was in a wheelchair, were trapped under the tree before firefighters rescued them.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing screams for help before emergency services arrived.

It is believed the trio were walking their dogs through Southwick Recreation Ground when the poplar tree came down shortly before 10am.

A South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAMB) spokesman said they received a call a 9.55am.

He added: “We were initially told two people were trapped but it turned out to be three.

“We sent three ambulances and two cars and the air ambulance was also assigned to attend.”

The helicopter landed in the park in windy conditions while firefighters attempted to free the trio.

Two of the women were taken to the Royal Sussex County Hospital while the other went to Worthing Hospital.

The woman in a wheelchair, who is believed to have multiple sclerosis, was taken to the Royal Sussex as a priority patient as she had suffered a head injury.

She was also complaining of pain in her neck and back.

The other woman taken to the Royal Sussex was suffering with spinal pain.

The third patient was taken to Worthing hospital as a precaution. 

One of the women has been named locally as Vivien Bailey. The identity of the other two has not been confirmed.

Ronda Shepherd, 49, is a friend of the two taken to the Royal Sussex.

She lives in nearby Orchard Close but was not in the park at the time.

She said: “Someone said they just heard a big crack. Can you imagine if it was school time and all the kids were walking around.”

Speaking about Ms Bailey, she said: “I’ve known her for years, she has been a huge support to me and my husband who was in hospital. She is just a lovely, lovely person.”

Adur District Council said it was launching an "immediate and thorough" investigation. 

Andrew Thewlis, who lives nearby, was walking back from the shop when he heard the helicopter come in to land.

He said: “It is very windy here, the conditions are terrible.

“I can see the fire brigade having a meeting near the tree and police and ambulances. Someone was put in the back of an ambulance but I didn’t want to get too close.”