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Man dies after van submerged in water in flood tragedy

A man has died after his van was submerged in water in Walsall following flash flooding.

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Water rescue teams in Lichfield Road, Rushall, Walsall. Picture: @wmaspeterbowles/West Midlands Ambulance Service

Floods caused havoc across the Midlands after torrential downpours and thunderstorms swept in.

Emergency services were called to Lichfield Road, Rushall, just after 2am today to reports that a van had entered the water.

The victim, who is believed to be in his 80s, has taken to hospital but pronounced dead a short time later.

His next of kin have been informed.

The van being cleared from Lichfield Road earlier today. Picture: Kirinna Johnson

A resident and council worker desperately tried to rescue the victim, diving into the flood water and tried to break the van window with a hammer.

Mother-of-two Kirinna Johnson, 26, said: “One of our neighbours dived in when he saw the van get stuck, he was a real hero.

“He said he saw the driver open the door and try to push the van but the water was too deep. When that failed, he got back in and tried to reverse out.

“A council worker, who had just dropped off some sandbags, waded in too. They shouted for a hammer and tried to break a window. Meanwhile another neighbour called the police.

“But by the time help arrived he’d been in the water for five minutes. Fire fighters cut him out and pulled him onto the roof and we saw them give him chest compressions.”

Firefighters survey the scene in Lichfield Road, Rushall. Picture: Walsall Fire Station/West Midlands Fire Service

Her husband Daniel, 27, said: “They were working on him for ages. You could tell that it wasn’t going to be good news.

“Another neighbour blew up an air bed and sent it out on the water to help try and rescue him.”

The couple said that youngsters stood near the bridge for much of the night shouting at motorists not to enter the water but many ignored them.

Earlier a motorist was rescued from the spot at around midnight after driving in from the Walsall direction.

Residents said he dialled 999 in a panic from his mobile, telling emergency services that he could not swim.

Mr Johnson said: “He opened the boot and it looked like he was trying to get out through that exit. The car was floating in the water and all the stuff in his boot was bobbing in the water. Luckily he was rescued.”

They said that the water rose from about four and a half feet at 10:30pm when a cyclist rode in and found himself submerged up to his chest. Just an hour later it has risen at least another two foot.

Ch Insp Paul Ditta, of West Midlands Police, said: “Our thoughts are with the family of the man who died today.

“There are a number of roads affected across the region that have been badly affected by the flooding.

“Many people will be heading away for the half term break and I’d urge people to take care on the roads and allow extra time to travel."

Move coverage of the flooding

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said crews initially found two vehicles in the water.

“Firefighters who had entered the water had found an elderly man at the vehicle and taken him to an ambulance crew who were at the water’s edge," he said.

The scene in Lichfield Road today

"The ambulance crew carried out advanced life support before taking the man to Walsall Manor Hospital, but sadly he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival."

A second person was found in the water but was unhurt.

The ambulance service said it is not believed that this person was from one of the vehicles.

The second vehicle is believed to have been in situ for some time.

The spokesman added: “With the rain over the weekend, there are still a number of roads affected by floodwater. Please ensure that you take extra time on your travelling today and heed any warning signs.”

Lichfield Road was clear of flood water later in the day
Motorists were able to make their way along the road later on

Resident Antonio Longhi, whose son is the mayor of Walsall Councillor Marco Longhi, lives in Ladypool Close beside the bridge where the tragedy occurred.

He said water gushed down from Park Lime Pits, an area of lakes and canals, into the road which dips steeply under the railway bridge.

The water levels rose as high as two metres below the top of the bridge arch, turning the road into a treacherous 70-metre wide lake.

Mr Longhi, 75, said: "There was a gentleman who was rescued by firefighters in an inflatable raft and they brought him to the side onto a grassy embankment outside our houses. He looked unconscious.

"I didn't realise until this morning that he died. It's very sad.

"It's an absurd situation. There were firefighters, ambulance and police everywhere.

"I stayed up all night, partly because of the noise an partly because this happened 10 years ago, only worse, as on that occasion it flooded our homes and afterwards the council drained Lady Pool."

He added that council workmen arrived at the spot at around 7.30 this morning to clear debris from the carriageway left from the flooding.