Tractor driver who tried to save three men stuck in 4x4 says they were ‘swept away’ by River Esk

Chris Ford said the victims had been part of an ‘off-roading’ group

Holly Evans
Friday 29 December 2023 16:04
4×4 recovered from River Esk where three men died after being ‘swept away'

A tractor driver who tried to rescue three men whose 4x4 vehicle had become submerged in the River Esk during Storm Gerrit said they were “swept away” as they attempted to cross the water.

Chris Ford, a firewood salesman, had received a call asking for his assistance shortly after the vehicle entered the river near Glaisdale at 11.48am.

Emergency services including fire services, police, ambulance and a helicopter rushed to the scene, with the 4x4 recovered further downstream and the three occupants confirmed to have died.

The car has since been removed by two other vehicles and two tractors, while flowers have been laid on the bank in tribute.

“There was a ford they were going over and they were swept down 400 yards. They were part of an off-road club,” Mr Ford said.

The 4x4 was found 400 yards further downstream

“I went down with my tractor. There was a couple of vehicles – one parked up. You couldn’t see the (other) vehicle. It was 3ft beneath the water.

“I helped get it out on to the riverbank with three other tractors.”

Another man who attempted to help those in the 4×4 was pulled to safety from the river and has received medical treatment.

Two other locals, Rosie and Andrew Dale, said they were with Mr Ford when he got the call to help and had seen several 4x4 vehicles pass their home towards the ford shortly before the incident.

Mrs Dale said “nobody local” would attempt to cross the ford in the current conditions.

The area is popular with 4×4 drivers, she said, adding: “In the summer you get 10 of them at a time.”

The tragedy occurred as Storm Gerrit caused flooding and travel chaos across the country throughout Wednesday and Thursday. Thousands of homes have lost power across Wales and Scotland, while a number of flood alerts have been issues for Yorkshire.

The incident occurred during Storm Gerrit which has caused widespread flooding

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “Localised conditions across our area are making driving hazardous.

“Roads are particularly badly affected around the RiverEsk, to the north of the county, as we have seen with the tragic incident near Glaisdale.

“There was another incident at nearby Houlsyke at 12.49pm when a car got stuck in flood water and another at Kirby Wiske in Hambleton at 2.35pm.

“Thankfully, the occupants of both vehicles were brought to safety.

“The key advice is to consider whether your journey is necessary.

“Please avoid driving through any kind of standing or moving flood water if you possibly can.”

Witnesses to the incident at Glaisdale are urged to call North Yorkshire Police on 101, option 4, quoting reference NYP-28122023-0146.

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