A MAN has recounted his miracle escape after three elderly people were swept away in a swollen river.

The accident, which fire officers feared was close to becoming a fatality, happened on New Year’s Eve at a ford in Bramshill, near Eversley.

Jim Nunn, of Crawley Hill, Camberley, and his wife Nancy were being driven to a bridge party by a friend from Camber-ley when the car was caught in the flooded River Blackwater.

“At the time it was terrifying and my wife suffered severe hypothermia,” said Mr Nunn. “At one point I thought another 15 minutes in those conditions and I would have lost her.”

The trio, all in their 70s, were travelling along Ford Lane in Bramshill looking for the house hosting the party. In the unlit country lane they missed their turning and reached the ford.

Because of heavy rain the River Blackwater had broken its banks and flooded to an 8ft-deep raging torrent.

The ford usually has a foot of water running over it but still needs care in negotiating. In normal conditions vehicles have become stuck in the river.

While they tried to turn, the new Toyota RAV4 was caught in the current, swept downstream and rammed against a bridge 100 yards from the ford, as the occupants battled to get out.

“My wife has had two knee replacements and I have two false hips so it was a very difficult job to get out,” said Mr Nunn, a former army officer.

“We tried to break a window, which was not possible, then we managed to get the back doors open and scrambled out on to the bridge.

“Our friend and I got out first and struggled to get Nancy on to the bridge too. The current was so fast it was taking her under the bridge and we were very worried we would not be able to do it.

“Once we had managed to take off her heavy coat we pulled her out of the water but I think it took about 25 minutes. From that point she remembers nothing until she woke up in hospital, which is probably a good thing.”

The three scrambled to the bank and shouted for help. Other guests at the party had begun searching for them and one heard the distress calls.

Fire officers from Hartley Wintney and Yateley took the victims across fields to an ambulance waiting at the nearest accessible road. The ordeal lasted three hours.

“My wife was in a very poor state while we were waiting to be rescued,” said Mr Nunn. “I was trying to comfort her but I did think another 15 minutes and I would have lost her.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone who helped us.”

The couple and their friend saw in the new year at the accident and emergency ward at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. The two men were allowed home in the early hours and Mrs Nunn later on New Year’s Day. They are recovering well at home.

Sub officer Colin Ive, who is in charge at Yateley fire station, said: “They were incredibly lucky and I am delighted it was a happy ending to their dreadful experience. We feared the worst because of the treacherous conditions and the time they had spent in the icy water.

“Our advice in weather like this is to keep well away from rivers — it is simply not safe.”