Driver's lucky escape after his bus ends up in Strangford Lough
A Translink driver had a lucky escape yesterday morning after his bus left the road and ended up in the sea.
The Ulsterbus, which was travelling along the Portaferry Road towards Newtownards, crashed into a wall and ended up stuck on the shore of Strangford Lough.
There were no passengers onboard when the accident happened at around 6.30am.
However, the driver, believed to be in his 30s, was taken to the Ulster Hospital with minor injuries.
Recovery workers fought throughout yesterday morning to bring the bus back to land as the tide washed in around them, leaving the vehicle submerged in the water.
Divers were also brought in to help move the vehicle. They dragged the bus towards the sea wall before rigging it up and carefully lifting it back onto solid ground using a crane.
The Portaferry Road was closed for several hours as the police and the Bangor Coastguard rescue team tried to stop the vehicle from being washed out to sea. It reopened shortly after 2pm yesterday.
Councillor Kellie Armstrong said that she used the road almost every day for her daily commute and passed the incident shortly after it happened.
Her husband Barry, who is deputy station officer with Portaferry Coastguard, was called out to the incident.
"By the time I had got there the driver was out and he had been taken away in an ambulance," she said.
"There was a wall knocked down on the passenger side of the bus. It looks like the bus may have hit that wall and then has gone across the road and straight into the lough.
"Thank goodness the bus went over where it did, stayed upright and the tide was up because otherwise it would have been a lot worse. At least the driver walked away and no other road users were involved.
"It was very windy and dark at that time of the morning. The road is dangerous. It's a very tight road. The driver was lucky."
Local resident Roy McFerran said: "I have seen countless vehicles on that shore over the years. The road itself is nearly not wide enough or strong enough for the volume of traffic.
"We've seen it all before, but fortunately the driver wasn't injured. If it had been a couple of hours later he would have been falling down into four or five feet of water, which would not have been good."
A Translink spokeswoman said: "We can confirm an Ulsterbus was involved in an incident on the Portaferry Road around 6.30am.
"No other vehicles were involved and no passengers were on board. The driver has been taken to hospital to be assessed.
"PSNI attended the scene. An investigation is ongoing."
A spokesperson for the UK Coastguard said Bangor and Portaferry Coastguard rescue teams were sent to the area. "The police and ambulance service were also in attendance. There were no passengers on the bus," the spokesperson confirmed.
"The driver has been taken to hospital and the Bangor Coastguard rescue team has remained on the scene to secure the area."
They added that the NI Environment Agency sent officers to the scene to check for any pollution that may have occurred.