Friends hurt in horror crash as their van is left hanging on bridge near Draperstown
Two lifelong friends are recovering in hospital following a dramatic collision on a road bridge near Draperstown.
The two men, both believed to be in their 50s, are being treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast following the crash between a lorry and a van at the Altagoan Bridge on the Magherafelt Road just after 5pm on Wednesday.
One of the men, Brian Donnelly, was moved into the hospital's intensive care unit last night where his condition was said to be "critical", while John Glasgow's condition was given as "stable".
They were both in the van along with a third as yet unnamed man, when the collision occurred with the lorry a mile outside the Co Londonderry town.
It's understood that the driver of the lorry did not require overnight hospital admission for his injuries.
The impact of the collision left the van in a precarious situation as it had breached the bridge walls, leaving half of its rear teetering over the edge and ready to fall into the river Altagoan below. Emergency services on the scene took immediate action to ensure that it did not tip over while also carrying out a detailed search of the river to ensure that no occupants had fallen in.
Yesterday, investigations were carried out by police to determine exactly what happened. The crash debris which was revealed in the morning indicated just how serious the crash was on the narrow stretch of the road.
A brother of one of the men said last night: "I don't really know much about the details of the crash but I do know that it was a rough one."
While thanking all of the emergency services for their rescue work, he added: "My brother is pretty beaten up, he's in bad shape. They are blessed to have come out of it."
While those being treated in hospital were visited by relatives yesterday, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) and the Northern Ambulance Service(NIAS) warned motorists to be extra careful with driving on winter roads on dark nights. Group commander of the NIFRS Maurice Rafferty said that it took the combined efforts of the police, ambulance and medical staff and fire officers to make the rescue.
"However, all emergency services would urge motorists to take extra care while they get used to driving in winter road conditions, with the diminished light and slippy roads."
John McPolin of the Ambulance Service spoke of the "extremely difficult operation" which required three A&E ambulances, two rapid response paramedics, two Hart (hazardous area response team) paramedics, one ambulance officer and the trust's medical director to be deployed.
"It also highlights the bravery of the NIAS staff who along with their colleagues from the NIFRS, were focused on ensuring that these patients received the best possible chance of surviving this incident.
"The crews worked tirelessly throughout, under extremely difficult circumstances, to ensure that those involved were provided with the best chance of securing a good recovery and are therefore deserving of great praise.
"For them, it may have been just another call, but for those injured, their interventions may prove to be life-saving."
Police in Magherafelt are appealing for information following the road crash.
Anyone who may have witnessed this incident can contact them on 0845 600 8000.