Driver grateful to be alive after miraculously surviving 70ft plummet from bridge

Last updated at 16:10 09 January 2008

A driver had a lucky escape when his car spun out of control and he plummeted 70ft from a bridge.

Steven Leightley's pick-up truck fell from the A1(M) after being in collision with another car.

Amazingly, the 38-year-old escaped with just minor injuries despite the front of his car being completely crumpled.

Speaking from hospital afterwards, he joked: "I have never had an accident before in my life, but then this happens. I never do anything by halves."

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Mr Leightley's Isuzu Trooper plunged from the bridge near the River Wear near Chester-Le-Street, County Durham at 6.30am on Tuesday.

The truck landed on the river embankment and Mr Leightley managed to crawl from the wreckage.

Last night, he was being treated for pains and bruising in his back and legs at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

Mr Leightley, a father-of-two, said: "I could see this little red car coming into my path.

"I knew they had not seen me, so I accelerated away but they clipped my truck and sent me spinning.

"I tried to keep control but I smashed straight through the barrier.

"When I hit the bottom, and there was grass coming towards me and air bags going off and glass shattering around me, I thought I was being hit by other cars.

"I didn't realise that I had left the bridge and what I thought were other cars was actually the impact of hitting the field."

His 34-year-old girlfriend Claire Hancock was astonished that her boyfriend survived.

Mr Leightley said: "I could see what was going to happen, but the car just hit me.

"When the truck landed it was on all four wheels, but my leg was trapped.

"I don't think I was in shock at the time but it has kicked in since."

Mr Leightley is likely to be off work for up to three months, but is grateful to be alive.

He said: "There must be someone looking out for me up there. It's a miracle.

"If I had been driving something other than that truck, I wouldn't be here. It saved my life.

"I didn't tell my children because I didn't want them to worry aobut me. I'm so lucky I get to see them again."

A Durham Police spokesman confirmed that a red Nissan Micra driven by someone from the Houghton-Le-Spring area was involved in the incident and that an investigation into the cause of the collision was on-going.

He said: "We did manage to trace everybody involved at the scene but if there are any witnesses we would urge them to contact us."

A spokesman for Durham Fire and Rescue Service said three of its vehicles attended the scene around 7am yesterday.

A spokesman said: "We took a call that a car had left the carraigeway and gone over a bridge.

"Officers helped make the vehicle safe and one male who released himself from the vehicle prior to our arrival attended Queen Elizabeth Hospital with minor injuries. He had a very lucky escape."