Divers find bodies of girls believed to have been tombstoning
Published 24/07/2013 | 08:20
Divers have found the bodies of two girls who went missing in the UK after they were thought to have been 'tombstoning' in a fast-flowing river, following hours of searches.
A man, thought to be the father of one of the girls, and an off-duty policeman dived in to try and save the teenagers after they were spotted in trouble in the water, and more than 100 people from the emergency services were involved in the search for them.
The girls, named locally as Chloe Fowler, 13 and Toni-Beth Purvis, 15, are thought to have jumped 30ft into the River Wear in Fatfield, Washington, in Tyne and Wear and then disappeared under water at about 3pm today, the Daily Mail reported. Northumbria Police announced one body had been found at about 9pm and a search of the same stretch of river found a second body about an hour later.
Police said the girls had not yet been identified but both families had been informed and the search would now be “scaled down” while they investigate what happened.
Superintendent Alan Veitch, of Northumbria Police, said people had tried in vain to rescue the pair, including an off-duty policeman who dived in after a boy who was trying to save them.
He said: "Another gentleman dived in and swam the width of the river to get to one of the girls but he came up empty-handed. He was distraught as you can imagine.
The officer said he believed the tide may have turned at around the time the pair got into difficulty, and they are thought to have gone under at a point about 100 yards downstream at a bend in the river.
He said earlier: "Today was one of the hottest days of the year, it's the school holidays and it's tempting to go in the water.
"There are big, strong powerful river currents and this is not the place to lark about in the water."
Fire crews, police specialists and a Coastguard team searched the water for the girls and roads were closed while this took place.
Paul Cronin, 63, who lives close to the scene, saw one of the men who had tried to rescue the girls.
He said: "This gentleman came running up towards the park and I thought it was strange because he was dressed in his boxer shorts, even though it's warm.
"He had just crawled out of the river and had nearly drowned himself.
"He was screaming at me 'Can you swim?'."
They went back to the river but the first rescuer was too exhausted to go back in and Mr Cronin said when he got there, he saw no sign of the girls.
A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: “Search dive teams have found a second body of a female.
"Families of both girls have been informed.
"Both bodies have been taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital. Activities at the river will now be scaled down and inquiries will be carried out into the circumstances of the incident."