A CAR burst into flames after careering off the motorway and smashing into a tree.

The vehicle had been travelling northbound on the M66, near to the A56 junction at Edenfield, at around 10.45pm last night, when the driver lost control and swerved from the carriageway.

As the car ploughed into the motorway embankment it collided with a tree with such force that it caused it to uproot.

After coming to a stop on the hard shoulder the car set on fire and flames engulfed and destroyed the vehicle.

The incident prompted a huge response from the emergency services including the fire service and police, who were supported by a helicopter.

Initial reports to the fire service suggested that the occupants were still trapped in the car when it set on fire.

However when fire crews arrived they discovered that the car's occupants had been seen running away from the scene and into a nearby wooded area.

An unsuccessful search for the occupants was then carried out using thermal cameras and the helicopter.

It is though that they may have miraculously escaped from the crash with only minor injuries.

Photos taken of the scene showed fire fighters dousing the wrecked car, which could be to be complete burnt out inside.

The front end of the car could also been seen to be very badly impacted with the engine broken into bits.

The M66 was closed for some time following the crash and a temporary diversion was put in place before the motorway reopened.