These incredible aerial images show how a quaint market town has become cut off after an entire bridge collapsed into a river.
The Grade II listed Eastham Bridge was reduced to rubble after it dramatically crumbled into the River Teme in Tenbury Wells, Worcs., on Tuesday (24/5).
Two motorists were forced to slam on their breaks to avoid plunging into the water as they went to cross at around 3.30pm.
One school mini-bus driver said he had to reverse with a vehicle full of children as the historic bridge collapsed in front of his vehicle.
Emergency services attended the scene but there were no reports of any injuries at what is a busy commuter route through the picturesque town.
Shocking pictures taken today (Wed) show the scale of the devastation after tonnes of bricks caved and fell around 20ft (6m) into the river.
Derek Trow, 62, was taking 11 pupils home from Lindridge St Lawrence CE Primary School based in the town at the time of the incident.
As he crossed he saw the road giving way in front of him and the quick-thinking driver slammed the vehicle into reverse to save them from harm.
He said: “There was an almighty row and the apex collapsed. We would have gone down there. We were just lucky.
“There were two buses – I was in the lead. I’d just got onto the bridge when I saw just over the apex some of the road had given way.
“I stopped and gestured to the bus behind me to move so I could reverse back to get my wheels off the bridge.
“I’ve been driving buses for about 17 years and that’s where your training kicks in. You just do it.”
Local residents say they have been left devastated by the loss of the bridge, which was built in 1793.
Gardener Paul Newby, 58, said: “It has left some people stranded. It’s a main route to get through to to Eastham.
“It was chaotic yesterday with the traffic but we’re gutted we’ve lost a huge part of our local history.”
Eyewitness Alan Sheldon, 49, from Worcester, was just 50 yards away from the historic bridge fishing when he saw it collapse into the water below.
He added: “The first thing I heard was the sound of rock falling into water.
“My first thought was that there had been some kids throwing stones into the water from the bridge.
“But, within a few seconds, the complete left hand span collapsed into the river below and shortly afterwards the middle span also went.
“As far as I could see there was noone on the bridge but shortly afterwards two mini buses turned the corner but were able to stop short of where it collapsed.”
The bridge was built in the 18th Century and is Grade II listed structure. It was sealed off while bridge engineers carried out inspections.
Councillor Ken Pollock, who represents Tenbury on Worcestershire County Council, said the impact will be catastrophic for the town.
He added: “It could take months to get sorted.”
Lindridge St Lawrence School head teacher Julie Page said: “According to the account given by the drivers and children, as the first bus drove onto the bridge, they noticed masonry crumbling and falling from the side of the bridge and they described hearing a loud bang.
“The buses quickly reversed off the bridge and then watched as the bridge collapsed into the River Teme below.
“The children were all returned safely to school where the drivers very efficiently arranged to take them home via an alternative route whilst we sent out an emergency message to inform parents.
“We are very grateful for the quick thinking of the bus drivers concerned and thank God that our children were unharmed.”
A Historic England spokesperson said: “This late 18th century bridge is Grade II listed and is therefore nationally important.
“We are in touch with Worcestershire County Council who are responsible for the bridge and we will help them if they need any assistance.”