A COUNTY Durham councillor has urged motorists to use caution when crossing the River Wear Ford near St John’s Chapel after a family had a lucky escape when their vehicle got wedged in the watercourse over the weekend. 

Emergency crews were dispatched on Saturday (January 8) evening at around 4pm to reports of a man and his three young children attempting to exit their Volvo estate car, as high water levels battered against the vehicle.

By the time firefighters reached the scene, walkers and passers-by had already offered assistance and rescued the family from the Weardale Ford in their time of need.

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Units from the police and ambulance also reportedly attended the incident, with the family treated at the scene but requiring no further medical attention. 

A County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: "Reports of a vehicle trapped in the River Wear Ford at St John’s Chapel in Weardale came into CDDFRS control at 4pm on Saturday (January 8).

“One appliance and the Target response vehicle (TRV) from Stanhope attended the incident.

The Northern Echo: Emergency services attended the Ford near St John's Chapel on Saturday (January 8) after a family became wedged in the car.Emergency services attended the Ford near St John's Chapel on Saturday (January 8) after a family became wedged in the car.

“Thankfully, on arrival, all occupants were safely out of the vehicle. Police and ambulance were also in attendance.

"One male occupant was treated by paramedics on the scene for cold water shock. Fire crews left the scene at 5.30pm.”

Despite this particular incident having a happy outcome, Durham County Council representative for Weardale, Cllr Anita Savory, has said that others might not be as lucky next time.

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The councillor, who has alleged to have witnessed “countless” incidents of people “throwing caution to the wind” and crossing the treacherous road has warned that “water is a force that shouldn’t be messed with”.

Following the incident at the weekend, Cllr Savory told The Northern Echo: “I think common sense must prevail when winter conditions have taken hold of the Ford. The weather was freezing, and the water could easily shock people and do a lot of harm.

“Luckily for this family – they have escaped relatively unscathed, and hopefully they will now be more cautious, but if it wasn’t for the pillars of the nearby bridge, I fear that a fatality could have happened.

The Northern Echo: County Durham representative for Weardale, Cllr Anita Savory, has warned motorists about tackling the watercourse.County Durham representative for Weardale, Cllr Anita Savory, has warned motorists about tackling the watercourse.

“It’s irresponsible that people are crossing this route again and again and expecting a different outcome – something has to be done.”

Now that the Weardale councillor has witnessed several incidents of vehicles getting wedged in the Ford, she has pledged to raise the concern with Durham County Council as a matter of urgency.

However, she has also put some responsibility with drivers – calling on them to use “caution, common sense, and not always following the sat nav” or risk the Ford being closed, like the one in Stanhope that was permanently shut in 2012, for similar reasons.

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Cllr Savory added: “Water is not a force to be messed with – it can carry a vehicle and people away easily. Luckily, emergency crews could reach the family easily and attend to them – it doesn’t bear thinking about the alternatives.

“We’ve seen other Fords closed in the past, and it would be a big blow for farmers in the area to lose this key route.

“I’d like to thank the firefighters and other emergency workers who attended this time, and I warn drivers to be careful out there – or it’s only a matter of time until we’re talking about fatalities.”

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