A VAN which was driven into the River Thames in central Oxford, prompting a heroic rescue by a local man, has this afternoon been hauled out of the river.

The vehicle was pulled up out of the water using a massive, barge-mounted crane, in a two-hour operation watched by dozens of locals.

At the end of the endeavour residents erupted in a round of applause for the team who finally got rid of the van which has been an eyesore, polluting the river.

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The van was driven into the river just west of Folly Bridge in the early hours of Saturday, April 18, by an unknown man.

He had driven off Thames Street then ploughed the vehicle through a concrete bollard before plunging into the icy water.

Resident Dale Chamberlain, who happened to be in his garden just yards away from the river bank at the time, rushed out to see what was happening then heroically leapt into the water, rescued the man from the van and pulled him to safety.

Oxford Mail:

Read the incredible story again here.

After the drama was over, the Environment Agency - which looks after rivers - said that it would be the owner's responsibility to get rid of the vehicle.

However for the past month the van has sat in the river, with locals wondering when it would ever be removed.

It is still not clear which organisation has this afternoon finally done the job.

Andrew Billen, who lives nearby and took these incredible photos, told the Oxford Mail: "We got a message from one of our friends at about 12.40pm so we went to watch."

Oxford Mail:

He described how a diver with the team went below the van to strap two 'bungee ropes' underneath the van so it could be hauled up.

He said: "It was literally like a giant hammock."

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As the van came up, its contents came floating out the windows, including several soft drinks bottles which Mr Billen said the diver then went around collecting.

Oxford Mail:

When the whole operation was complete, Mr Billen said: "I led the applause at the end - it's been weeks and we were very impressed!"

He joked that the operation looked like something out of Thunderbirds.

The Environment Agency has now been asked for more information about the operation.