A TEENAGE schoolgirl was "lucky to be alive" last night after she plunged 90ft down a steep river gorge at a Scottish beauty spot.
The 16-year-old fell down the narrow ravine flanking the River Braan near the Hermitage in Perthshire and was swept down the river after being knocked off her mountain bike when it collided with the parapet of a bridge over the gorge.
She had been with members of an organised group from a local outdoor centre and was pulled from the river by members of the party. She was then airlifted to safety in a delicate operation involving an RAF helicopter, firefighters and paramedics.
The teenager is understood to have been hypothermic and in shock by the time she was airlifted to safety, but she was said to be "stable" in Dundee's Ninewells Hospital last night.
One of her rescuers said: "She is very, very lucky to be alive. If I was her, I would be putting a lottery ticket on tonight."
The girl, a pupil at Menzieshill High School in Dundee, was part of a group, organised by Ancrum Outdoor Centre, who were mountain biking in the area when the accident happened at the Rumbling Bridge, near Dunkeld.
A police spokeswoman said the girl had fallen 90ft down to the gorge. "She would appear to have lost control of her bike and collided with Rumbling Bridge, before falling down into the gorge and into the river," she said.
"Emergency services were quickly on the scene and the girl was found to be conscious and breathing.
"She has since been airlifted by the RAF Leuchars search and rescue helicopter to Ninewells Hospital for medical assessment."
The spokeswoman added: "As with all incidents of this nature, the Health and Safety Executive has been informed."
Units from Tayside Fire and Rescue Service, including specialist water rescue teams, ambulance crews and paramedics raced to the scene.
Kevin Lennon, the fire service's station manager at Perth, said: "The girl had come off her bike and went over the bridge and landed in the water.
"She then got swept underneath the bridge and out to the other side to a small pool, where she was located."
He said other members of her party had managed to scramble down the steep face of the ravine to pull her from the water. When the emergency services arrived, two firefighters and a doctor also descended into the gorge, using harnesses and lines, to aid the injured schoolgirl.
Mr Lennon said: "They managed to get the girl on to a spine board and got a collar on her. A helicopter then arrived at the scene. We weren't sure if the helicopter would manage to get to her, and we had our rescue teams gear up a line rescue.
"Fortunately, due to the skill of the pilot and the winchman, the helicopter crew managed to get a cage stretcher down to the girl and winch her out of the ravine."
He added: "It was a co-ordinated effort involving all of the emergency services at the scene. We are all experts in our own fields but, had we not worked together as a single team, I don't think we would have the successful outcome that we did have."
A spokesman for Dundee City Council said yesterday: "Everyone at Menzieshill High School and the education department wishes this pupil a full and speedy recovery from her fall. Her family were alerted as soon as possible after the accident, and we will be keeping in close touch."