A specialist water rescue team from Derry Crescent Link fire station took part in a major rescue operation to free two men trapped in a van precariously suspended over a river bridge following a collision with a heavy goods vehicle (HGV).
The van had only one wheel in contact with the bridge and was left hanging around 20 ft above water following the crash which occurred shortly after 5.00pm yesterday at Altagoan Bridge on the Magherafelt Road near Draperstown in Co Derry.
The Derry firefighters were deployed in the river along a specialist rescue team from Belfast to conduct searches and because of the danger of the vehicle slipping off the bridge.
Specialist rescue equipment and trees were used to stabilise the van before firefighters and paramedics entered the vehicle to release the man who sustained serious injuries which are believed to be life-threatening.
The driver of the lorry and another man also had to cut free by firefighters who spent five hours at the scene.
Ambulance and fire crews have been praised for their role in the operation.
Maurice Rafferty, group commander from the Northern Ireland Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We were greeted by quite a complex rescue scene when a van was seen hanging over the bridge side above the river in the area.
“One occupant was in the van and two were in the lorry.
“We had to call in some specialist assets from Belfast and from the Crescent Link station in Derry due to the risk of the vehicle both going into the river and that water rescue aspect that could have happened.
Group Commander Rafferty concluded: “The man in the van was at a significant risk and I just would just like to recognise the actions of the first attending crew.”
Police in Magherafelt are appealing for information following the accident and have asked anyone who may have witnessed the collision or anyone who has any information to contact them at Magherafelt on 0845 600 8000.