Police had to shut the westbound carriageway, heading into Blackpool, for several hours on Friday, leaving thousands of motorists and holidaymakers stranded in the heat.
It led to several miles of tailbacks on what was expected to be one of the Fylde’s busiest weekends.
A 39-year-old disabled woman, who had been a passenger in a Renault Kangoo, had to be airlifted to hospital after the vehicle collided with the central reservation.
The car flipped on to its side on impact in the crash at around 11.15am.
The woman and the female driver of the car had to be cut free by firefighters. The disabled woman was airlifted to Royal Preston Hospital with a number of injuries. She suffered injuries to her back and shoulder, and the female driver was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital with minor injuries.
The incident happened between junctions three and four of the motorway as thousands of people were expected to flock to the Fylde coast for the start of this year’s Lytham Proms.
Drivers caught up in the tailbacks, which are believed to have stretched back towards Preston, were left standing out of their cars on the carriageway in soaring temperatures while the emergency services cleared the scene.
Lee Burns, 31, was on his way into work at G Casino, Blackpool, from Manchester.
He said: “I was stuck on the motorway for about an hour and a half to two hours.
“Everyone was out of their cars, and some were running across the other carriageway while it was open to get to the field on the other side of the motorway. I couldn’t believe it. When we were moving I drove past the car, which was on it’s side and facing the wrong way.”
Mark Gray, 41, who was on his way home to Penrose Avenue, Blackpool, was stuck for around an hour and offered assistance to an elderly man who was worried about his family.
He said: “He was concerned that his family was waiting for him at home, so we offered him our mobile phone.
“It was quite surreal as everyone was out of their cars and talking to each other. The police closed the other side of the motorway while the air ambulance landed, so we were able to walk along it to look for the accident.”
Lara Kirkham, 32, said: “I had two small children in the car with me when I got stuck, and it was very hot. It was a bit of a nightmare on a Friday, but I just hope the people in the car were OK.”
Fire crews from South Shore, Fleetwood and Wesham attended the incident.
Watch manager Geoff Etheridge at South Shore fire station said: “When we got there the vehicle was on its side. Both casualties were inside and both were trapped.
“The casualty in the rear of the vehicle was disabled and in a wheelchair, which had been strapped in.
“The fire service used specialist cutting equipment and worked together with the paramedics on the scene to release her and the driver.” The women were treated at the scene before being taken to hospital.
The motorway was reopened at 1pm, but tailbacks took a while to clear.
Commuters took to Twitter to talk about the accident.
Michael Morrison said: “Crash near Blackpool exit on M55 looked horrific. Car on its side, fire engines and several ambulances attending, with chopper waiting.”
Andy Waterworth added: “Sat in first lane of M55 engine off. Air ambulance parked to my left and police fire and ambulance galore.”