Snowbound Rotherham hearse rescued by 'amazing' community

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media captionPassers-by attempted to push the hearse before a 4x4 driver offered to tow the vehicle

A hearse on the way to a funeral had to be towed up a hill after becoming stuck following heavy snow.

Passers-by rescued the vehicle after it became stranded on its way to Rotherham Crematorium in South Yorkshire.

Carole Vernon, who was attending her father's funeral, said residents tried to push the hearse before a passing driver offered to tow it.

"There was a chance Dad's funeral wouldn't have taken place if it weren't for their help," she said.

image copyrightAnnette Rollinson
image captionMrs Vernon said the 4x4 driver waited to the end of the service to help her elderly relatives to their cars

Mrs Vernon had travelled within coronavirus lockdown rules from Wokingham, Berkshire, for the funeral of her father Arthur Underwood, 81, on Thursday.

She said the hearse ran into difficulties at the bottom of Ridgeway, but almost immediately a man came to help.

He spread grit in front of the hearse as family members attempted to push the vehicle.

Two council workers arrived a short time later and a number of other people also volunteered their help.

'Proud'

Eventually, the driver of a passing 4x4 stopped and offered to tow the hearse to the crematorium.

She said the driver then waited until the end of the service to help her elderly relatives back to their vehicles.

"When the hearse got stuck and it was skidding all over the road, my first thoughts were, this does not feel respectful for my dad," she said.

"But, my opinion of all that changed as soon as everyone came and put all that effort in for people they do not know and have never met.

"It meant my dad's funeral could happen and it meant we could say goodbye to him.

"I'm so proud of them and they ought to be proud of themselves."

image copyrightMichelle Mulcahy
image captionAt least one other hearse had to be helped by passers-by

Ridgeway resident Michelle Mulcahy, 40, said she had seen a second hearse being helped up the road.

"It was heart-warming," she said.

"This area can have quite a bad reputation but it just goes to show the community spirit there is around here."

Funeral directors Turners wrote on Facebook to thank all those who had helped, adding: "We're all very grateful for your community spirit."

Responding to concerns on social media that the road had not been gritted, Rotherham Council said the weather conditions had made it difficult to get out before 09:30 GMT and the route had been treated again at 13:00.

Assistant director of community safety and street scene, Tom Smith, said: "They were really tough conditions for everyone and our thoughts were very much with families of those attending funerals.

"Rain washes salt away, so we can't spread it until the rain stops. On Thursday, the rain changed to snow immediately. Salt also needs vehicle movements to get it working. But with lockdown and the weather condition there wasn't much traffic."

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