A DELIVERY driver has had a lucky escape after emergency services rescued him from his van which was stuck in a over flowing ford.

The incident happened at the Westgate ford, in Weardale.

At 5pm on Tuesday, January 19, fire crews from Bishop Auckland, Durham, Stanhope, and Middleton in Teesdale, along with the Swift Water Rescue teams were called to reports of a vehicle that had entered the water at Westgate.

On arrival at the scene fire crews worked quickly and used water rescue equipment, to rescue the van's occupant.

A spokesperson from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue said: “We’re so proud of our Water Rescue Team and crews in what was very challenging conditions.

"The quick actions our crews took to ensure the driver of van was safely rescued."

Witness Scott Bisset, a local resident who lives a mile from the scene and went to assist after being called by two people who heard the driver shouting for help.

Mr Bisset, a member of the local mountain rescue team, said he believed the Morrisons delivery driver used the ford after being directed to use it by his sat nav.

He said: “There’s 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.”

A Morrison’s spokesperson said: “The driver is well and we’d like to thank the emergency services for their support.

“The water levels are very high and the vehicle will be recovered as soon as it is safe to do so.

“We’re extremely grateful to all our drivers for their hard work delivering essential food to their communities.”

Brian Buckley, Durham County Council’s strategic highways manager, said: “Signs are in place at either side of the ford, warning motorists of the crossing.

“Drivers should always exercise caution when assessing whether to cross any ford and during periods of bad weather, when rivers can be faster flowing, we would also encourage them to use an alternative route.

“In this case, there is a bridge crossing about 500 metres away.

“This should always be used if drivers are in any doubt about the safety of crossing the ford.”

Durham County Councillor for Weardale, John Shuttleworth said: “Clearly we will have to look at new warning signs to stop this happening again, and I have asked for this to be looked at as a matter of urgency.

“Not only was the life of the delivery driver put at risk, but that of the emergency services, and I applaud them for their efforts on that evening.

“The only blame is that of technology, and satellite navigation systems in vehicles.”

Fellow County Councillor Anita Savoury said: “Last night due to the adverse weather conditions lives were put at risk due to a vehicle attempting to cross the ford at Westgate.

“There is great relief that the van driver was rescued safely which demonstrates the expertise of our emergency services.

“This situation does however pose questions as to why there are no safety barriers in place on this ford to prevent further incidents occurring which can be life threatening and costly. If a life is lost it will be too late.