SAFETY experts have hit out after a coach carrying around 40 people tried to cross the Holy Island causeway while it was under several foot of water.
The incident happened on the crossing from Lindisfarne on Saturday afternoon and resulted in damage to the vehicle.
Coastguards warned that the incident had put passengers in “extreme danger” while users of social networking website Facebook condemned the coach driver for attempting to cross the flooded causeway.
The incident was reported by Holy Island coastguard on its Facebook page later on Saturday.
It is believed that the coach was from the Netherlands and was full of older passengers as it made its way to the mainland. A British guide is thought to have been leading the tour.
A Facebook post said: “At 13.40 this afternoon Holy Island coastguard received a report that a brown coach with approximately 40 persons on board was driving through water on the causeway. Holy Island coastguard mobile arrived on scene and confirmed that this was the case.
“The coach drove through around four to five foot of water before it made it to the mainland, the vehicle sustained substantial damage which included ripping parts of the vehicle body panels off and the loss of its number plates. Apart from being in extreme danger while the coach travelled through the flooding tide, passengers also experienced very wet luggage.”
Station manager at Holy Island Coastguard Ryan Douglas said passengers were reported to be visibly distressed and shaken by the incident.
He said: “It was an extremely dangerous thing for the coach driver to do as it was a good time after the safe crossing time. The driver put the passengers’ lives at risk and it is lucky that the coach made it to the mainland. If anything had happened then the passengers would have been at serious risk and it also puts coastguards at risk.”
People commenting on Facebook were quick to criticise the driver.
Barbara Prater wrote: “I read what you say but cannot comprehend that an adult with a coach driving job could possibly behave in such a way.”
Carl Matthews added: “I’m a lifeboat crew member and a coach driver and I can honestly say I would never ever do this, the coach driver in my opinion was stupid and has put 40-plus lives at risk. He’s lucky that the only thing he will probably lose is his job, would be interesting to know if it was a UK coach though.”
Coun Dougie Watkin, who represents Holy Island as part of his Norham ward, condemned the coach driver’s actions but said there had never been any fatalities or injuries in the 59 years that the causeway has been open.
He said: “I cannot understand why people drive into the water. It is stupid to do so. You cannot miss the signs warning people about the dangers of crossing the causeway when it’s covered in water. The driver would have passed a number of signs.
“At the end of the day what can you do other than stand there smacking drivers over the head with a sign? It gets difficult to know what to do.”