Page last updated at 14:13 GMT, Monday, 20 June 2005 15:13 UK

Witnesses describe raging torrent

By Mike Chilvers
BBC News in Hawnby

Boy looking at flood damage at his home
Cars were washed into gardens and buildings collapsed

Residents of Helmsley, Hawnby and Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe were among the worst affected by the flash floods which struck North Yorkshire.

A raging torrent of water tore through parts of the area, devastating homes, businesses and other property.

BBC News has been speaking to people on Monday collecting eyewitness stories.


When Mary and Roy Griffiths saw water rushing down the valley towards their boarding kennels in Hawnby, only one thought crossed both their minds.

Get the animals out.

Julie Barr, a kennel worker, said: "By the time I got there all I could see was the aftermath. Mary was on the roof saying: 'We're losing dogs! We're losing dogs!'"

But the rescue operation almost turned to tragedy as the flood waters rose and the pair found themselves trapped.

It has flattened the whole area so it looks like a hurricane has hit the place
Julie Barr

John Richards, agent for the nearby Mexborough estate, waded into danger to pull Mr and Mrs Griffiths away from an oncoming torrent of water.

Witness Mary Tate said: "It was terrifying. The water was so powerful but despite that he (John Richards) jumped into it. The people in there could not get out and they were climbing onto roofs."

Mrs Griffiths was later airlifted to hospital in Northallerton with a suspected heart attack.

Unfortunately, one dog died but the rest of the animals - about 22 - were rescued. Ms Barr said the clean-up of the kennel would take some time.

"The whole place is completely trashed. It has flattened the whole area so it looks like a hurricane has hit the place," she said.


Meanwhile, a few miles away in Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe, Shelagh Smith was at home with her partner Steve Clements when they noticed the water in Sutton Beck had risen above the bridge.

"We just heard this raging torrent and all we could hear was this crashing and debris thudding and smashing all over the place," said Mrs Smith.

Campsite flooding
A torrent of water passed down through villages

Concern turned to her elderly neighbour, Ruth Mitchell, who was trapped in her home.

"We looked at Miss Mitchell's house on the other side of the beck and saw that the upstairs light was on and water was halfway up the windows on the ground floor."

As the pair rushed out they urged arriving firefighters to get their elderly neighbour out - by now the water was up to the ninth step of the 11 stairs in her house.

"All she was worried about was her cat," Ms Smith added. But the pet was found safely sat upon a settee that was floating on the water.

Miss Mitchell, who is in her 90s, has lived in her house since 1947 and said she had never seen anything like the flood which tore through the village.


Dave Hall and Jan Garnsey, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, were returning home from relatives near Pickering when they got caught up in the storm.

Low-visibility forced them to pull over in the village and they were offered the chance to park up in the driveway of Paul Walkland, who lives near the bridge over Sutton Beck.

"I didn't think the water was going to reach up there so that's why I told them to park there," Mr Walkland told BBC News.

Unfortunately, he was wrong.

"Within about 10 or 15 minutes our car and his car were both floating," said Ms Garnsey.

"We had to lash them both to trees with ropes so that they didn't float away. We were hanging on to the cars with water up to our waists. It was really terrifying.

"The storm was frightening. It was pitch black and water was just gushing from everywhere in the village," she added.

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