Drama: The fireman steps in to save this woman driver from drowning in the swollen River Loddon
This is the dramatic moment a woman motorist was saved from drowning by a firefighter standing up to his shoulders in swirling floodwater.
The victim was swept downriver in her car after ignoring warning signs and driving into a ford which is normally only inches deep.
However torrential rain had turned the River Loddon in Berkshire into a torrent and the water across the road was actually five feet deep.
These pictures, taken by a passer-by, show the moment the woman driver tentatively decided to risk crossing the ford at Charvil, near Reading, Berkshire, yesterday afternoon.
Moments later the car began to float and was swept away with the helpless driver clinging to the steering wheel and unable to prevent her fate.
The driver, aged in her 40s, was trapped in the car with the water rapidly rising up to the windows.
Horrified onlookers could only watch from the banks of the River Loddon as the fast moving current started to pull the Vauxhall Astra downstream.
The woman was eventually pulled head first from the car by firefighters neck deep in water using specialist rescue equipment as the vehicle floated across the swirling ford.
Today the woman was recovering at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, where she was being treated for exposure.
Steve Collier, landlord of the Lands End Pub saw the woman enter the water after ignoring the warning signs showing the water at a height of nearly 5ft deep.
Mistake: The unnamed driver decided to brave crossing a flood-swollen ford - minutes later she was swept away
'I couldn't believe it when the Vauxhall Astra just drove in,' he said.
'Straight away the back end of the car was dragged to the left and you could see there was no movement from inside the car.
'Within a couple of minutes the windows were steaming up and the car was being dragged down the river by the current.
'It was in far too deep for any rescue attempt with a normal car and all we could do was ring 999.' Emergency services raced to the river crossing in Park Lane, Charvil, yesterday/on Tuesday just before 2pm.
When fire crews arrived on the scene the water inside the Vauxhall had risen to chest height and the woman was unable to free herself.
With time running out firefighters decided not to wait for a boat and instead inflated a hose to use as a line to the submerged Vauxhall Astra.
Rescue: The normally inches-deep ford was at least five feet deep as she tried to cross it
Rescuers then broke the side window and pulled the woman out to safety.
'If we had left it any longer there could have been serious issues so we effected a rescue,' said Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service watch manager Phil Holdford.
'She was extremely cold and shocked at what had happened. The ford was about 5ft deep in the middle and the car had floated some way downstream.
'No-one should drive into a ford when the water is as deep as that.' Mr Collier said up to 120 motorists were rescued from the water each year after ignoring the clearly displayed warning signs.
'We really do not understand why people do it,' he said.
'It is at least 50ft to the other side and you can clearly see the water ahead of you moving very very quickly.
'I know some people blame satellite navigation systems and others think they can cross it in the summer so will be able to do it now.' Firefighters had been called to same the ford last Saturday to rescue two men who became stranded in a VW Passat.
The car had to be winched from the swollen Ford.
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