A PART-TIME firefighter died last night after a fire engine responding

to an emergency call in the Borders crashed through the parapet of Kelso

Bridge and plunged about 50ft into the icy waters of the river Tweed.

Five of his colleagues, also retained firefighters, were rescued by

emergency services which included colleagues of the men from the same

fire station in Kelso. The emergency call to Crailinghall Farm in

Crailing, near Jedburgh, turned out to be a chimney fire.

Rescuers were supported by an RAF helicopter from Northumberland and

local people took to boats to help survivors.

An off-duty ambulanceman with two friends was one of the first on the

scene and managed to get three of the victims off the vehicle which had

landed on its side, half submerged in six to seven feet of freezing


Others who had also managed to get on to the vehicle's side were

winched to safety by a crane which lowered a basket over the parapet of

the 190-year-old bridge, part of which had a 30ft gap caused by the


It is understood that a lorry was on the bridge at the same time as

the fire engine was crossing it around 4.10pm.

The dead firefighter, who was trapped for an hour under the appliance,

was later named as Mr Ian Robert Bruce, 37, of Queens Croft, Kelso, the

driver of the fire tender. He had eight years' service and was

understood to have worked for a local electronics firm.

His body was recovered from the wreckage by police divers and fire

service personnel.

The survivors were taken to the Borders General Hospital at Melrose

about 15 miles away.

They were named as Mr George Cockburn, 39; Mr Martin Meikle, 34; Mr

William Cowe, 47; and Mr David Thomson, 28. They were being treated for

hypothermia and shock. Mr Thomson also had a thumb injury.

The fifth survivor, Mr Brian Fairbairn, 29, suffered a head injury and

was the only one detained overnight in hospital.

Assistant divisional officer Jim Hogg said later that the survivors

were shocked by the loss of their colleague and were too upset to talk

about it.

''You are talking about a group of firemen who know each other very

well and work together closely as a team.''

It was the second tragedy in the past two months to hit the emergency

personnel who work in the market town 43 miles south of Edinburgh. A

local ambulanceman recently died in a road accident.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said it appeared that

the local community had reacted quickly after the accident.

''They did some good work,'' he said. ''The ambulance crews are

obviously upset about this. This is a small community and they work with

the firefighters on a regular basis.''

Within minutes of leaving the fire station, which has 15 retained

firefighters, the appliance had plunged into the Tweed through the

parapet of the bridge built in 1803 by John Rennie.

The rescue operation was launched as passers-by, one of whom described

it as ''an utter horror'', raised the alarm.

Ambulance technicians and paramedics from Kelso, Galashiels, Hawick,

and Eyemouth went to the scene on the A698.

A spokesman for the brigade said the second Kelso appliance as well as

ones from Coldstream and Galashiels were at the scene.

The original emergency call to Crailing was dealt with by firefighters

from Jedburgh.

The cause of the bridge accident was being investigated by the fire

brigade and police.