A man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder today after a car plunged into a river, leaving two young children fighting for life.
West Mercia Constabulary said a five-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy were both in a critical condition after being airlifted to hospital in Birmingham from Evesham, Worcestershire.
The younger of the children was only rescued from the submerged vehicle by police divers two hours after the emergency services were called to Boat Lane, Evesham, at about 9.20am.
A police spokesman said: "Officers were called to the scene at around 9.19am after reports a car had entered the river containing occupants.
"Emergency services, including divers, took part in a rescue operation and a man and two children were recovered from the river.
"The man was taken to Alexandra Hospital, Redditch, where he was treated and later discharged."
The police spokesman, who would not comment on the relationship between the man and the children, added that a man had been arrested in Evesham on suspicion of attempted murder.
West Midlands Ambulance Service said the boy and a man in the car had escaped from the water when its crews arrived, but the girl was rescued from the vehicle by police divers.
An ambulance service spokesman said: "The boy's condition was stabilised before he was airlifted to Birmingham Children's Hospital in a critical condition.
"A young girl was pulled from the submerged vehicle around two hours later by police divers.
"Ambulance staff immediately started resuscitation attempts and she too was airlifted to Birmingham Children's Hospital."
The man was taken by land ambulance to the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and his condition was not believed to be serious.
Two ambulances, a rapid response vehicle, an incident support officer, a specialist paramedic from the hazardous area response team and the Midlands air ambulances from Strensham, near Worcester, and Cosford, near Wolverhampton, were sent to the scene.
"This was an extremely difficult incident for the staff from all three emergency services," the ambulance service spokesman said.
"Their close co-operation has ensured everything that could possibly be done has been."
The incident happened on a stretch of the River Avon which is around 100ft wide and is overlooked by a caravan park.
Police cordoned off Boat Lane around 200 yards from the river, where a crane arrived at about 2.30pm.
From the opposite bank of the river, more than a dozen emergency vehicles, including a fire engine, could be seen in attendance, where Boat Lane ends and a slipway runs into the water.
Superintendent Garry Higgins, of the South Worcestershire police division, said: "This was obviously a very traumatic incident - our officers are been left very shaken by events.
"All of the emergency services involved in the operation worked closely throughout to effect the rescue.
"An investigation into the incident in now ongoing and we would also like to hear from anyone who was in the area around the river at Boat Lane this morning before 9.20am."
West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman Murray MacGregor noted that there had been previous cases where people had survived after being submerged in very cold water for long periods.
"They are very rare - few and far between - but they do happen," he said. "That is why the crews will always try to resuscitate people who have been in very cold water."
Nick Toy, an incident support officer with West Midlands Ambulance Service, attended the incident.
Mr Toy, who is based in Worcester, said that, although the girl was unresponsive when she was brought to the river bank, resuscitation attempts had started straight away.
"The reason why every effort was made is that there is evidence of young people surviving immersion in cold water," Mr Toy said.
Local resident Joyce Taplin, 76, told reporters that the river was clearly visible to motorists as they approached it along Boat Lane during daylight hours.
"I saw the emergency vehicles going down the lane," she said. "There were two fire engines with an inflatable dinghy, the police and an ambulance."
"It's very said when children are involved in something like this," the pensioner added.