TWO children and a man, who were airlifted to hospital following a two-car accident near Barnard Castle , County Durham yesterday, remain in a critical condition.

Three air ambulances were called to the A688 at Staindrop, near Raby Castle, at around 10.05am along with police, fire and ambulance.

A ten-year-old boy and a 45-year-old man had to be freed from the wreckage of a silver Rover vehicle by firefighters. An eight-year-old girl was released from the same vehicle by paramedics before the fire crews arrived. The man was airlifted to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough with serious abdominal injuries and the two children, who are believed to be brother and sister, were airlifted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

A spokesman for the Great North Air Ambulance, whose two aircraft were assisted by one from the Yorkshire Air Ambulance, said: "We airlifted the two children to the RVI, both with serious head injuries.

"Both had to be anaesthetised at the scene by the GNA doctor."

All three casualties are from Butterknowle, near Bishop Auckland .

The female driver of the other vehicle, a black Vauxhall Corsa, was taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital. The 78-year-old, who is from the Sunderland area, suffered a fractured spine.

The cars were travelling in opposite directions when the accident occurred, around 300 yards from Burnt Houses Lane. The road was closed for several hours while police investigations were carried out. Anyone who witnessed the accident or who saw either car shortly beforehand is asked to contact PC Andy Wilson at Durham Road Policing Unit on 101 or the Collision Investigation Unit on 0191-375 2159.