FIFTEEN years ago, an anaesthetist spoke of his dramatic battle to save the life of a toddler thrown from an inflatable sculpture during a tragedy in a North-East park.

Three-year-old Rosie Wright was taken to intensive care at Newcastle General Hospital after suffering horrific injuries - including a punctured lung, fractured spine and bruising to the brain - when she was thrown from the Dreamspace artwork in Riverside Park, at Chester-le-Street, County Durham, then hit by a falling fan which crushed her chest.

She was anaesthetised at the scene of the tragedy by Dr Peter Evans, a 39-year-old consultant anaesthetist from Sunderland Royal Hospital, who passed a tube through her windpipe as she struggled for breath.

Dr Evans said: "I have never encountered anything like this outside hospital before."

The experienced medic, who has been hailed a hero by those who witnessed Sunday's tragedy, lives in Chester-le-Street and was on his way to meet his children at the town's swimming baths when he was alerted by the number of ambulances heading into the park.

Dr Evans first tried to help 68-year-old grandmother Elizabeth Collings, from Seaham, who was transferred to the University Hospital of North Durham, where she was later declared dead.

Air ambulance paramedic Jane Peacock spotted Dr Evans, whom she recognised from her training at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, and asked him to help Rosie, who had also suffered multiple rib fractures, two broken bones and lacerations to the liver.

He said: "It was immediately apparent to me that she was seriously injured.

"After assessing her injuries, I decided to place an intravenous cannula and give some resuscitation fluid.

"I felt the safest course of action was to anaesthetise her at the scene and then transfer her to Newcastle General on the air ambulance.

"I am a hospital doctor who trains paramedics - but I have never encountered anything like this outside hospital before.

"I hope that all those injured are on the road to recovery, and my sympathies go out to the relatives of those who lost their lives."

Dr Evans, a reluctant hero who at first declined to be named, then rode on the air ambulance taking his patient to intensive care, where she underwent emergency surgery.

Rosie, from Langley Park, in County Durham, had been visiting the park with her mother, Penny, and four-year-old brother, Jack.

The children went into the inflatable maze only moments before disaster struck and it took to the air with 30 people inside.

Two people died when they fell from the airborne structure - Mrs Collings and 38-year-old mother-of-two Claire Furmedge, from Chester-le-Street - while 14 others, including Rosie, were injured.

Mother-of-two Sherry Vogwill was among the first to find Rosie lying on the grass and spent 20 minutes comforting her while waiting for medical help.

The 32-year-old housewife, from Carrville, in Durham City, went to the park with her husband, David, 45, and her children, Glen, 11, and Tim, nine, after hearing that morning about the death of her aunt.

She said of Rosie: "She had hit the concrete path and bounced onto the grass.

"Her face was covered in blood, she was breathing very deeply and I could see her eyes were rolling, and she was going to go unconscious again.

"I thought 'I am not going to let that happen'.

"I didn't want those eyes to close.

"I was squeezing her hand, talking to her and gently tapped her nose with my finger and saying 'come on, wake up'.

"She kept asking for her granddad and trying to get up, but I gently held her down and told her not to worry about it - it was obvious her leg was broken."

Penny Wright then found her daughter and the family stayed to help until Dr Evans arrived on the scene.

Mr Vogwill said: "I honestly thought she was going to die, and if that doctor hadn't been there I don't know what would have happened.

"He probably saved her life."

His wife added: "I couldn't believe how brave this little girl was.

"She was incredible and just wouldn't give up.

"I am hoping and praying for her, but I am sure she will pull through because she has to be a little fighter."

Rosie's father, 34-year-old Lee Wright, said: "I want to thank everyone who helped save Rosie's life.

"Without them, we may have lost our little girl."

Also that week, builders had a lucky escape when a 140ft crane weighing 110 tonnes toppled over and crashed to the ground.

The accident happened as work continued to replace Surtees Bridge, on the A66 near Stockton.

No one was injured, but work on one side of the bridge was halted while health and safety experts carried out an inquiry.

A Highways Agency spokesman said yesterday: "There have been no injuries.

There has been no impact on the A66 and traffic is not affected."

Work on the west bank of the contract has been suspended, but work continues on the east bank."