A driver walked away from his crashed car yesterday – only to then plunge 30ft from a bridge onto rocks in the fast-flowing river below.
The 20-year-old suffered a broken arm and leg and had to be rescued by a group of nearby canoeists, who gave him first-aid until the emergency services arrived.
Only minutes before the fall, the Ford Focus estate car he was driving had careered off the A82 Inverness to Glasgow road beside the Bridge of Orchy Hotel south of Glencoe.
Police, fire, ambulance, coastguard and mountain rescue teams from Oban and Glencoe all raced to the crash scene.
The driver was carried from the rocks and taken by ambulance to the Belford Hospital in Fort William before being transferred to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley.
His passenger, another 20-year-old man, was not seriously hurt.
It is understood the pair, believed to be from the south of England, had been up Ben Nevis earlier in the morning.
Samantha McFarlane, assistant manager at Bridge of Orchy Hotel, said the alarm was raised around 9.30am by a man who had been camping on the other side of the river.
“He told me there was someone in the water screaming out for help, so I phoned an ambulance,” she said.
“The casualty was on the rocks under the bridge by the time I got there. I’m not sure if he landed in the water or on the rocks but it looked to me like he landed straight onto the rocks.
“A couple driving behind his car stopped when they saw the car crashing. By the time they stopped and pulled in safely there was only one guy in the car. The other had walked off.
“The man who stopped caught up with him and was asking him if he was OK. They were standing on the bridge. He said he was OK, and just needed five minutes to himself.
“The man turned round to head back to his wife and next thing he heard were screams of agony. The young man had gone off the bridge. His bone was through his knee.”
Miss McFarlane added: “There were some canoeists camping nearby. The first aiders among them got into wetsuits and crossed over to the rocks and kept him warm with sleeping bags until the ambulance came and he was stretchered from the river.
“The water was shallow, but it was fast flowing. The danger was that the rescuers could have been swept away. Once enough of the emergency services crews had arrived they were able to safely carry him out on the stretcher.”
The hotel worker said she spoke to the injured man’s companion.
“He was still pretty shocked,” she said.
“He said to me that the visibility on Ben Nevis at 4am was pretty limited. He just came out with this.
“He didn’t seem to know what was going on. He said that the driver had suffered trauma in a previous car crash.”
Oban based Inspector Julie McLeish said: “The car left the A82 road and landed in the car park.
“The driver ended up on rocks in the River Orchy. Emergency services were assisted in his recovery by members of the public.
“He was taken by ambulance to the Belford Hospital in Fort William suffering from a broken leg and an injury to his elbow.
“Our investigations are continuing.”