Friday, 16 Apr 2021

Supermarket delivery driver rescued from top of van stuck in swollen Durham river

A supermarket delivery driver was rescued from the top of his overturned van after it was swept away crossing a fast-flowing ford.

Emergency services were called at 5pm on Tuesday to Westgate, in Weardale, County Durham, following reports a Morrisons delivery van was trapped in the swollen River Wear.

Specialists from Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service used a raft attached to a nearby footbridge and gave a life jacket to the driver, who had climbed on top of the van.

Witness Scott Bisset said the man looked “distressed and panicked” but was eventually brought to safety and taken to hospital.

The fire service tweeted a dramatic video of the scene, saying they were “so proud” of the water rescue team.

It said: “On arrival our crews took immediate action, in what was challenging conditions, to ensure the driver was rescued.”

Mr Bisset, who lives a mile away from the river, went to assist after being called by two people who heard the driver shouting “help”.

He believed the driver used the ford after being directed by his sat-nav but said there was “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.”

He said the emergency crew “put their own lives at risk.”

“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 about 500m further downstream.

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