A FARMER who helped try to save sheep trapped in an overturned lorry has expressed his dismay that the animals were “largely ignored” by the emergency services.
Many sheep died as a result of the incident on Monday afternoon, when a Scania lorry, which was transporting around 300 sheep, overturned on the A697 near Milfield. Police are appealing for information after the collision, which happened around 12.50pm on Monday, October 1.
Officers and paramedics attended the scene and the driver of the lorry, a 33-year-old man, was taken to hospital with serious injuries. He is currently in a stable condition.
A section of the A697 was closed and diversions were put in place. But despite this a local farmer, who helped at the scene, said that sheep were not let out of the lorry and were left to suffocate.
The farmer, who did not want to be named, said: “Local farmers were called to the incident, but when we got there no attempt had been made to rescue the animals.
“The police wouldn’t let us open the doors until a farmer came down with gates to make a pen, because they were worried that the sheep would run into the road and cause problems – but the road was already shut.
“The fire service had a vehicle there with all the cutting gear but as soon as the driver was out they sent it away. We had to get a local engineering company to come along and cut a hole in the roof so people could get in to help.
“The wagon was lying on its side and we were working on a meter deep of dead sheep, trying to pull the live ones out. Only one lad from the fire service helped us get sheep out of the wagon – others were just standing there.”
The farmer said that despite the best efforts of eight or nine volunteers, around two thirds of the sheep died. “We only managed to get a few out alive,” he said. “Many suffocated because nobody had done anything.”
Sgt Phil Patterson of Northumbria Police Road Safety Unit said it was a difficult incident and thanked the volunteers who turned out to help. He said: “With their help we were able to get a number of sheep out of the trailer alive and if they hadn’t been so quick to assist then the situation could have been a lot worse.”
A spokesperson for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service said: “Firefighters responded to the incident on the A697 following the correct procedures. In such an incident the driver and passengers, if there are any, must be made safe and the safety of other road users is also a priority. Animals cannot be released on to the carriageway until it is safe to do so and this is a decision that is made by the police.
“Firefighters liaised with the police at all times throughout the incident and helped remove sheep from the lorry when it was judged by the police to be safe to do so. Firefighters at the scene contacted a retained colleague, who is a farmer, for advice. This officer then attended the scene to help with the rescue and the transfer of sheep to a different trailer.
“The use of privately owned cutting gear was used to aid access to the top level of the lorry - it did not replace the cutting gear used by the fire crews who had worked hard to make an opening in the roof.”
They added: “When firefighters arrived at the scene the articulated lorry was lying on its side and sadly animals died as a result of the accident.”
Anyone who witnessed the collision is asked to contact police on 101 ext 69191.