Fire Service revisit dramatic bridge rescue that ‘always comes to mind’

Two men were trapped in a van hanging from the bridge
Two men were trapped in a van hanging from the bridge

Firefighters in Mid Ulster have used social media to illustrate the kind of life and death situations they face on an almost daily basis.

The team behind NIFRS West Facebook posted dramatic images from one of their most challenging rescues back in 2013 to get their road safety message across.

The van was hanging 30 feet above the river below

The van was hanging 30 feet above the river below

They revealed how firefighters from Maghera and Magherafelt, who saved three lives in a dramatic Draperstown bridge operation, were awarded the highest honour the Fire Service has to give for their work on that dark winter night.

Crew from the two towns were called out to a road traffic collision involving a van and lorry, that left one vehicle hanging from the Altagoan Bridge on November 6.

And although admitting they “see some sights”, they said they were met with a particularly

“precarious situation” that night as the van involved in the collision had “breached the bridge walls, leaving half of its rear teetering over the edge and ready to fall into the Altagoan river some 30feet below” - with two men trapped inside.

Firefighters were awarded a commendation after the rescue

Firefighters were awarded a commendation after the rescue

But to, as a statement from NIFRS said, “make matters worse” they said the lorry involved was still running at full revs and two men trapped in the van, and another inside the lorry, were becoming affected by the fumes.

Outlining how they went about rescuing all three casualties, a post on NIFRS West said on Saturday: “A sterling effort saw Maghera Firefighters isolate the fuel lines underneath the lorry to eliminate the risk of fire and fumes, whilst Magherafelt got to stabilising the van from falling over the edge.

“Extrication proceeded with three teams, one team per casualty. This was a long slow process as any movement could see the bridge wall collapse even further.

“Below the incident, specialist water and rope rescue teams were set up and carried out searches of the area to make sure no one was in the river, also ready to jump into action should any collapse occur.”

A van and lorry were involved in the collision

A van and lorry were involved in the collision

After all their careful work the three men were taken to safety, before being transported to Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment.

“A fantastic combined effort from police, fire and ambulance services that night no doubt saved lives,” they added.

Both Magherafelt and Maghera crews were subsequently awarded The Chief Fire Officers Commendation award in 2014.

In relation to questions about incidents, they said this one “always comes to mind due to the extremely difficult circumstances crews faced”.

The men had a very lucky escape

The men had a very lucky escape