THE son of a pensioner who drowned when her car fell into the River Wear spoke last night of his loss.
Eighty-year-old grandmother Jacqueline Welsh died when her Toyota Yaris plunged into the river near the Golden Lion pub in South Hylton, Sunderland.
It is believed she was practising her driving after a recent knee operation when the tragedy happened.
Her son Bruce, 50, who is a fund manager living in Mayfair, London, spoke to The Journal yesterday from his mother’s home.
He said: “It’s an absolute tragedy. I just can’t believe she’s gone. She had a wonderful life, was a very lucky person and was a good woman.
“She was a great mother and grandmother and had a lovely sense of humour.
“We were planning to come up to stay for Christmas, and I’d just been about to give her a ring on Thursday night.
“Then a police officer picked up the phone and told me there had been a tragic accident.
“I was stunned I just can’t believe it has happened.”
Bruce said he had been planning to move his family back to the North-East before the tragedy happened.
Bruce, a married father-of-two, added: “She was a very good looking woman, she looked a lot younger than her age.
“She even won a glamorous granny competition a few years back. She will be badly missed.”
Bruce, an only child, said his stepfather, John Welsh, a partner in Sunderland-based engineering firm Welsh and Baker, had died two years ago.
The pair had been married for 30 years before his death.
Mrs Welsh had recently had knee replacement and ankle surgery leaving one leg slightly shorter than the other, meaning she had to wear specially-made shoes.
He said Mrs Welsh had been brushing up on her driving when the accident happened.
It is believed the pensioner, a housewife throughout her life, was with a carer at the time of the incident on Thursday afternoon. The carer, who was not in the car when it plunged into the river, raised the alarm.
Mrs Welsh was freed from her car, which was lying on the riverbed, after a rescue operation involving the police helicopter, a Sea King from RAF Boulmer, firefighters, police, ambulances, the RNLI and the Coastguard.
She was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital but was declared dead on arrival.
Clive Fallon, an RNLI volunteer of 10 years, said the RNLI worked alongside three firemen who went into the water to release the trapped woman from her car.
Mr Fallon, 26, said: “The car seemed to have come down the riverbank and into the water where it floated for a short time, but as all of the air disappeared it sunk to the bottom.
“When we got there the car had moved to the middle of the river and was about three metres under water.
“It was quite a way down to the car door so the firemen tried to kick the window through and then tried to smash it with our anchor.”
Sgt Andy Shotton, of Sunderland Police, is still appealing for anyone with information about the accident to call him on 0854 604-3043 ext 66331.