STRIKING firefighters broke their picket line this week to save three people after a bad car smash.

Five officers from the picket in Leadgate, attended a head-on collision on the A693 Consett bypass, between Villa Real and Delves Lane, at around 10.50am on Tuesday.

Firefighter Colin Wheatley said: "The police said this was a serious accident and asked if we could come and give assistance.

"We crossed our picket lines and went out.In serious incidents, we will always be prepared to respond.

"We did what we could and helped the paramedics get an elderly man out and on to a spinal board, then returned to our picket lines."

The Air Ambulance was called in to fly a 59-year-old woman from Leadgate to the University Hospital of North Durham, with suspected chest and back injuries. A 62-year-old man, also from Leadgate, who was in the same car, was taken by ambulance to hospital with back, neck and head injuries.

The driver of the second car, a 70-year-old man from Stanley, was taken to hospital with suspected head and back injuries. His passenger, also in his seventies, was also taken in with a broken leg and facial injuries including a possible broken jaw. Three paramedic units attended.