VIDEO: Rescue bid launched after van plunges into River Wear at Sunderland

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A MAJOR search and rescue operation was sparked after a van was spotted in the River Wear.

Authorities are today still unsure as to when, or how, the white van became submerged in the water, off Websters Bank, Deptford, near The Ropery pub.

The RNLI inshore lifeboat crew were the first on the scene to check if there was someone in the van. A van was discovered in the River Wear at Deptford, between the Queen Alexandra Bridge and the Ropery pub.  It appeared to have gone into the river from the south bank  and was only revealed as the tide went out.

The RNLI inshore lifeboat crew were the first on the scene to check if there was someone in the van. A van was discovered in the River Wear at Deptford, between the Queen Alexandra Bridge and the Ropery pub. It appeared to have gone into the river from the south bank and was only revealed as the tide went out.

Divers searching inside the van and the surrounding area did not find a body.

RNLI volunteers and police arrived at the scene shortly before 11am yesterday.

Police sealed off the area as emergency services worked together to search for a body.

The van could not be pulled out because of the high tide.

Police divers checked the van after it had been submerged by the rising tide.'A van was discovered in the River Wear at Deptford, between the Queen Alexandra Bridge and the Ropery pub.  It appeared to have gone into the river from the south bank  and was only revealed as the tide went out.

Police divers checked the van after it had been submerged by the rising tide.'A van was discovered in the River Wear at Deptford, between the Queen Alexandra Bridge and the Ropery pub. It appeared to have gone into the river from the south bank and was only revealed as the tide went out.

It is still unknown whether there was a driver inside the vehicle when it entered the water or if the van was deliberately driven down the bank.

One man, who was walking his dog and stopped to see the emergency services at work in the river, said: “It looks like it happened during the night because you can see the tide has taken it down.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service group manager John Allison said: “We dispatched appliances from Sunderland East and Newcastle East stations and also appliances from South Tyneside West with a winch in case we needed to move the vehicle.

“We worked with the RNLI in their boat, using our equipment to secure the vehicle to stop it moving.

The RNLI inshore lifeboat crew were the first on the scene to check if there was someone in the van.'A van was discovered in the River Wear at Deptford, between the Queen Alexandra Bridge and the Ropery pub.  It appeared to have gone into the river from the south bank  and was only revealed as the tide went out.

The RNLI inshore lifeboat crew were the first on the scene to check if there was someone in the van.'A van was discovered in the River Wear at Deptford, between the Queen Alexandra Bridge and the Ropery pub. It appeared to have gone into the river from the south bank and was only revealed as the tide went out.

“We then waited for the police and marine unit divers to come and make sure there was no one inside.

“When we were happy that there wasn’t anyone inside the vehicle then it was left for the police to arrange for it to be recovered.”

Northumbria Police today confirmed that they will have to wait until tomorrow to pull the van out because of problems with the high tide.

The force is now carrying out inquiries into how the incident happened.

Twitter: @davidallison88