AN elderly woman was killed yesterday when her car plunged into the River Wear.
Police said the 80-year-old was carrying out a manoeuvre when her Toyota Yaris entered the cold water near the Golden Lion Pub in Lion Square, South Hylton, at around 1.30pm.
The scene was quickly attended by police officers, fire crews, the ambulance service, and the coastguard, who rescued the woman from the water.
A helicopter from RAF Boulmer airlifted her to a waiting ambulance and she was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital but was pronounced dead later in the afternoon.
A line was attached to the car from a mobile crane and it was recovered from the river at about 3.30pm.
It is yet to be established exactly how or why the car entered the river, but CCTV footage captured on the nearby pub’s cameras revealed the woman had driven past the pub numerous times in the hour before the tragedy occurred.
A number of people gathered on the river bank as the emergency services descended.
The manager of the Golden Lion, Claire Lawton, 26, said: “When we watched the footage back, the car kept turning around and going back on itself. She must have been driving around here for an hour beforehand.
“We won’t know the full story until after the police investigation.”
Although the Golden Lion does not open until 4pm, a number of people gathered on the river bank as the emergency services descended. There was a big crowd of us, obviously very worried, and the police started moving everyone away when the divers went down to get her out,” Ms Lawton added.
“There were people lined along the river and people were stopping on the A19 bridge which runs overhead to see what was going on.
“The bank outside the pub was just shut off completely by the police.
“You just feel for the family. It’s a horrible thing to happen to a woman of that age.”
Following an emergency 999 telephone call, a shore-based coastguard team from Sunderland was launched to offer its services.
Ian Rowan, helmsman at Sunderland RNLI, said: “When we arrived at the scene, we discovered that the car was totally submerged below the river. We worked alongside the specialist fire brigade team to recover the driver from the vehicle, before transferring her to the river bank.
“This was a difficult rescue for all of the services involved, but even more so for the team of fire brigade personnel who worked alongside us to recover the driver from the fully-submerged vehicle.”
An investigation into the incident has been launched and police are appealing for witnesses to contact them on 08456 043 043.