AN Olympic torch bearer who lost his wife and eldest daughter in a car crash took a dip in the North Sea this morning (Wednesday, December 26) to raise funds in their memory.

Ian Richardson was joined by two fellow Olympic torch-bearers and another 40 people aged between nine and 60, to raise cash for his charity at the Boxing Day dip at Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool.

About 200 people in total took part in the Seaton Carew dip, raising money for different charities, and there were thousands more watching.

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Mr Richardson, from Billingham near Stockton, set up the Jo and Mya Memorial fund after his family was involved in an accident on the way home from a wedding in Scotland in 2010.

His wife Joanne, 40, and daughter Mya, six, were killed and he was seriously injured. His younger daughter Ava, just ten weeks old at the time, was unharmed.

The memorial trust raises funds to help bereaved children who have lost their parents through illness or accidents, and for a number of other charities.

It is the third year that brave fundraisers have taken part in the dip for the Jo and Mya Memorial fund, and numbers are growing each year.

The first year, in 2010, Mr Richardson said about 15 people fundraised for the trust, in temperatures of minus 6, with a windchill of minus 12.

He said: “It was eight degrees this morning, both outside the sea and in it, and compared to that first year it felt tropical, to be honest.

“Even so it is a huge shock when you hit the water. Your whole body seems to go into shock as it tries to warm you up. But everyone loves it and they all want to come back and do it next year again.”

Mr Richardson applied for – and won – the chance to carry the Olympic torch through Bishop Auckland earlier this year in memory of his wife and daughter.

And two fellow torch bearers, Brian Baines and Lisa Askew, who carried the torch through Hartlepool, joined the Boxing Day dip to help raise cash, as well as some of Mya’s classmates.

Mr Richardson also organises numerous charity events throughout the year, and more than £50,000 has been raised this year for the trust fund.

After the accident he was left unable to walk for a while - but still managed to complete the Great North run last year in memory of Joanne.

The accident happened on the A1 (M) near Gosforth, Newcastle, when a car travelling the wrong way down the motorway crashed into the family’s vehicle.

The driver of the other car died several months later from his injuries.

*Further south from Seaton Carew, Redcar Boxing Day dip organiser Giles Bolitho (CORRECT) estimated that about 500 people took part – with another 3,000 turning out to watch.