Three people rescued from roof of car stranded in a swollen stream in Northumberland
Three people, who clambered through the sun-roof of their car as it was engulfed by a swollen stream in north Northumberland, were rescued by emergency services in an operation that took more than three hours.
The trio tried to cross Coldgate Water at the ford near Coldgate Mill, just beyond North Middleton, on Friday evening.
Melted snow had raised the water level and made the stream impassible. The Nissan Micra was swamped but luckily became snagged on rocks.
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service received a call at 5.34pm to a car in the water with three people trapped inside.
Watch manager Joseph Hunter, of Berwick Fire Station, who was in charge of the incident, said: "They had tried to cross the ford and been swept off. The river was running quite fast and was in flood. They were sitting on the roof of the car when we got there."
Fire appliances from Berwick, Belford and a Scottish Fire and Rescue appliance from Coldstream, the swift water rescue team from Hexham, Northumbria Police, the police helicopter and ambulance service, including the HART team (hazardous area response team) all arrived at the scene.
A nearby resident, who did not want to be named, watched the drama unfold. He said the car occupants managed to crawl through the skylight and sit on the roof.
Fire service personnel got a rope to the car and used it to pass life jackets and foil blankets to the casualties. Fire personnel were deployed both up and downstream; upstream to watch for debris coming down and downstream in case they fell in.
When the water rescue team arrived, they reached the stricken car on an inflatable and smashed the back windows so the car could be tethered to nearby trees to prevent it being washed away.
They also put a mat on bonnet to make it non-slippery. Meanwhile, police talked to one of the casualties on the phone to keep her calm.
They were eventually rescued by the boat, taken back to dry land and handed over to the ambulance service, while locals also supplied warm clothing.
The operation was over by 9.15pm.
Mr Hunter said: "It was a very complex rescue with significant resources involved. That ford has a history of this kind of incident. It's the third or fourth time that the fire brigade have done rescues there over the last few years."
The Coldgate Water, flows into the Wooler Water, which is a tributary of the River Till.
After a similar rescue last month, when two people were trapped in a car that had become stuck on a ford near Rothbury, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service issued the following advice: "Please be aware of the dangers of crossing fords during current conditions, as water may be deeper than expected. A depth of 15cm, as well as a strong flow of water may be enough to lift a small car off its wheels, endangering the occupants."