EXPERTS are carrying out an investigation into how a river bridge near Cropton collapsed when members of a shooting party were crossing last Thursday.

Two men from the York area were injured. One, aged 65, was airlifted to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough by the Great North Air Ambulance with a head and arm injury, while the other, in his 50s, was taken by road ambulance to Scarborough Hospital, suffering from hypothermia and a head injury.

The drama happened at High Askew when a party of 22 were pheasant shooting, said James Wood, whose father, Mike, has the shooting rights in the area, which is owned on one side of the River Seven by the Forestry Commission, and on the other side is in private ownership.

Mr Wood said the galvanised steel bridge, built in the 1990s, replaced an earlier structure.

“It had been crossed thousands of times by shooters,” said Mr Wood, who had himself narrowly escaped being thrown into the swollen river but managed to hold on to the structure.

Quick-thinking by other members of the party saw the two injured men immediately pulled out of the river and emergency services alerted.

Mr Wood had aided the recovery of one of the men and with others had helped stop the bleeding from the man’s head and keep both men warm.

“I jumped down and helped pull the men out of the water. They were both shivering and shocked,” said Mr Wood, who added that about three quarters of the members of the group had already crossed the bridge before the accident happened.

“The collapse happened very suddenly – it just buckled on one side,” he said.

Engineers are to ascertain whether the heavy rain and floods had been a possible cause of the structure’s failure, while similar bridges in the area are also being examined, said Mr Wood.

However it was not thought the river banks had been undermined to cause the collapse.

“Fortunately, the two members of the party have recovered, but while it was a serious accident, it could have been much worse. It was a shaking experience,” he said.

The rescue happened downstream from where 53-year-old Vanessa Robson, of Beverley, died two years ago when her Land Rover was swept away after she tried to negotiate a ford.