A schoolminibus driver has described how he saved the lives of 11 children by reversing off a bridge as it collapsed into a river.
The Grade II-listed Eastham Bridge was reduced to rubble after it crumbled into the River Teme in the market town of Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire.
Derek Trow wasforced to hit the vehicle’s brakes to avoid falling into the water as he approached the crossing at around 3.30pm on Tuesday.
The 62-year-old was taking 11 pupils home from Lindridge St Lawrence Church of England Primary School, based in the town, when the drama unfolded.
I’ve been driving buses for about 17 years and that’s where your training kicks in. You just do itDerek Trow
As he began to cross the bridge, he saw the road giving way in front of him and managed to move into reverse gear.
“There was an almighty row and the apex collapsed,” he said. “We would have gone down there. We were just lucky.
“There were two buses - I was in the lead. I’d just got onto the bridge when I saw just over the apex some of the road had given way. “I stopped and gestured to the bus behind me to move so I could reverse back to get my wheels off the bridge.
“I’ve been driving buses for about 17 years and that’s where your training kicks in. You just do it.”
Emergency services attended the bridge collapse, but there were no reports of any injuries on what is a busy commuter route.
Pictures showed the scale of the devastation after tonnes of bricks fell around 20ft (6m) into the river.
Residents said they have been left devastated by the loss of the bridge, which was built in 1793.
Paul Newby, a 58-year-old gardener, said: “It has left some people stranded. It’s a main route to get through to to Eastham.
“It was chaotic yesterday with the traffic but we’re gutted we’ve lost a huge part of our local history.” Witness Alan Sheldon, 49, from Worcester, was fishing just 50 yards from the historic bridge when he saw it collapse. He said: “The first thing I heard was the sound of rock falling into water.
“My first thought was that there had been some kids throwing stones into the water from the bridge.