By Cara Sulieman
TWO men face court after narrowly cheating death by allegedly driving along a frozen CANAL in a car.
Police blasted them as “stupid” after their vehicle broke through ice on the Union Canal in West Lothian plunging the pair into the freezing water and sparking a rescue operation.
It is alleged hapless driver and his passenger was motoring along the frozen canal near Winchburgh on Monday afternoon when the ice gave way and his Peugeot 406 plunged into the icy water.
The men are alleged to have driven down a slip road off the B8046 near junction two of the M9 that leads to a popular picnic and dog walking spot by the water, before edging on to the ice.
The black Peugeot got about half a mile down the canal before the fragile ice gave way and the front of the car smashed into the water.
With no other signs of broken ice around the car, the driver and passenger – aged 22 and 24 – are thought to have dragged themselves to the bank before fleeing the scene.
When the police arrived after being called by a passer by, they found the car sticking out of the water with the front end submerged.
A map book joined rubbish floating around inside the abandoned Peugeot just meters away from a footbridge across the canal.
Police eventually tracked them down and they have both been charged with reckless conduct.
Yesterday (Tues) most of the car was under water, with just the open boot sticking out into the cold air, with tyre tracks still visible on the melting surface.
The pair are now due to appear at Livingston Sherriff Court next month.
Lothian and Borders Police said it was “an example of the type of stupidity” that they were dealing with thanks to the winter weather.
A police spokesman said: “While it goes without saying that the vast majority of people have the good sense not to take their vehicles on to frozen waterways, this incident serves as an example of the type of stupidity that the emergency services occasionally have to deal with.
“There is no doubt that these two individuals had a lucky escape, and had the canal been deeper there could very well have been a different outcome.
“At this time we would like to join British Waterways Scotland in reminding people of the dangers of stepping onto frozen surfaces, let alone driving on them.
“The ice is now starting to thin, and there is always going to be the danger that it will give way, with potentially fatal consequences.”
The Scottish Government have joined their call to warn people off the frozen waterways.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill saying there had been a number of cases of both people and animals falling through the ice across the country in the past few weeks.
He added: “Although water can appear to be frozen hard, people need to be careful as ice needs to be several inches thick to support a person’s weight.
“With the temperature now rising and the thaw taking hold people need to be especially careful near frozen water, particularly when out with young children and pets.”
And Richard Haigh of the Chief Fire Officers Association Scotland said: “As temperatures in some areas begin to rise, the ice will weaken and present an even greater risk to those who venture on to it.
“There have been a number of instances where people and animals have fallen through ice and lives have been lost.
“I would urge people simply not to take such unnecessary risks; stay off the ice and keep pets on a leash.”
Earlier the Scottish SPCA warned dog owners to stay clear of frozen water even if their beloved pet falls foul of the ice.
Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “We know that many dog owners would go to great lengths for their animals, but attempting a water rescue is extremely dangerous and likely to end in tragedy for the person rather than the pet.
“Never go in after your dog, no matter how desperate you might be for its safety. A dog is much more likely to make it out of the water than a person.
“Likewise, if your dog runs on to an iced pond, never chase after it. The ice may be able to hold the weight of an animal, but it’s much less likely to hold a human.
“The safest option is to keep your dog on a lead near water, but if the worst happens and it does end up in the water and in trouble, stay calm and call the emergency services or the Scottish SPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.”