TWO men were recovering in hospital last night after falling into a swollen river when the bridge they were crossing suddenly collapsed.

The men were with a pheasant shooting party at High Askew, near Cropton, on the edge of the North York Moors, when the pedestrian bridge gave way at just before 3pm yesterday.

Members of the group jumped into the swollen Hartoft Beck to help rescue the men, and gave first aid until the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the Great North Air Ambulance Service arrived.

A 65-year-old from the York area was airlifted to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough with a head injury and a suspected broken arm, said a spokesman for the GNAAS.

The other man, in his fifties, was taken by ambulance to Scarborough Hospital.

“Both had sustained head injuries,” said the spokesman. “Although they had been recovered from the water, both were soaked through when our doctor and paramedic team arrived on scene.

“Other emergency services on scene had already prepared the patients for transfer and, after an assessment by the doctor, our crew flew the more seriously injured to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.”

Michael Wood, of Westfield Farm, organised the shoot, which had started yesterday morning, and said: “It’s very early days. We don’t know exactly what happened.

“The problem was they fell off the bridge on to the biggest rock in the river, and they fell right onto that. One of the men was walking but he was bleeding from his head. This sort of thing has never happened before. It’s a total one-off. I’m absolutely gobsmacked, I couldn’t believe it could happen.”

Michael’s son James, 32, helped administer first aid to the men, and said he was shaken by the experience.

James said: “As far as I can remember, the bridge just went, but it happened very quickly. No indication, it just went. It’s been there for a long time, and we’ve crossed it thousands of times, but it just went today.

“I jumped in and got one of them out. Everyone did very well though. The ambulance and emergency services were there very quickly, and did excellent work. They were superb. We tried to stop the bleeding from the head wound, and just tried to keep them both warm, keep them still, and keep their necks still.”

Michael said the 65-year-old “was not able to walk, and was carried away on a stretcher”, before he was airlifted to hospital, and said: “The paramedics were absolutely brilliant, as was everyone involved.”

North Yorkshire county council said it was trying to find out who owned the bridge.