A supermarket delivery driver was rescued from the top of his van after it was swept away while apparently crossing a ford.
He was trapped in the River Wear at Westgate, County Durham, at around 5pm on Tuesday, in the dark, surrounded by the fast-flowing water which was swollen with snow melt.
Water specialists from Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service braved the river in a raft attached to a nearby footbridge and gave the man a life jacket.
He was eventually brought to safety and was taken to hospital.
The fire service tweeted dramatic video of the scene, saying they were “so proud” of the water rescue team.
We're so proud of our Water Rescue Team & crews from Bishop, Durham, Stanhope, & Middleton, who at 5pm last night responded to a vehicle in the water at Westgate. On arrival our crews took immediate action, in what was challenging conditions, to ensure the driver was rescued. pic.twitter.com/27ueGL06yl
— County Durham & Darlington Fire & Rescue Service (@CDDFRS) January 20, 2021
They said: “On arrival our crews took immediate action, in what was challenging conditions, to ensure the driver was rescued.”
Witness Scott Bisset lived a mile from the scene and went to assist after being called by two people who heard the driver shouting “help”.
Mr Bisset, a member of the local mountain rescue team, said he believed the Morrisons delivery driver used the ford after being directed to use it by his sat nav.
He said: “There’s not a vehicle in the world that could have got through.
“The river was in flood – the snow here has melted and there was rain, so there was a lot of water in the river.
“The van was washed off and turned over on its side, luckily the front was pointing upstream, so it acted like a boat.
“If the water had been hitting the side of the van or the back, the driver would unfortunately have drowned.”
Mr Bisset, who was there to help but not officially called out with the mountain rescue team, said: “When I got there the driver was extremely distressed.
“All we could was tell him was the fire and rescue team was coming.”
Mr Bisset said the fire crew used ropes to attach a raft to the footbridge and two crew members went across to save the driver.
“They put their own lives at risk,” he said.
“I know they practice for this but in those conditions, with that freezing water travelling at great speed, in the dark and the pouring rain, it was very dangerous and they were very brave.”
Mr Bisset said the van was still in the water, but now around 500m downstream from the rescue site.