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Northern Ireland driver seconds from death after van plunges into lake

By David Young

Published 05/11/2016

The vehicle in the water
The vehicle in the water
The road on which Mr McLaughlin lost control of his van
Mr McLaughlin

A motorist has told how he cheated death after the van he was driving plunged 30ft into a deep roadside lake.

The incident happened at a sharp corner of the Longlands Road near the village of Donemana, Co Tyrone, on Thursday evening.

It is the second time a vehicle has plunged into the water in the past two months.

Driver Stephen McLaughlin, a self-employed electrician, described how he was just seconds from death in the cold water.

He told how, as he and a colleague were returning home from work, the Renault Partner van he was driving started to slide at the rear as he rounded a sweeping corner.

As Mr McLaughlin tried to recover control, the vehicle swerved and left the road before hurtling down the steep embankment into the lake known locally as the duck pond.

"All I remember is trying to pull the van out of a skid, and the next thing we knew was that we could feel the water all around our feet and legs," Mr McLaughlin said.

"My window got smashed in the impact, and my friend managed to smash his window with his elbow to escape.

"The van seemed to bob about in the water for a while before it sank.

"We just swam for the bank - we didn't feel anything under our feet until we reached the very edge (of the lake).

A diver and a recovery team were yesterday working at the scene of the accident on the Longlands Road, and the road between Donemana and Claudy was closed during the recovery operation last night.

The incident came just a month after Dungiven father-of-three Emmett Teggart broke free from his sinking jeep when it left the road and then plunged into the same lake at the same spot.

At the time, Mr Teggart described using his headrest, which he removed, to smash the window of his vehicle after recalling advice published in the wake of the Buncrana Pier tragedy.

Local man James Gamble - who rushed to the aid of the crash victim - said that the driver told him he had only managed to escape from the sinking vehicle thanks to advice he had read in the wake of the Co Donegal pier drowning tragedy.

Mr Gamble added: "The driver (Mr Teggart) told me that he had pulled his head-rest from (out of) the seat and used it to smash the window of the jeep and escape."

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