THE RNLI will visit County Durham Primary Schools to give life-saving advice in memory of a boy who died in the River Wear last year.

Soon after his death, friends and family of Ian Bell launched a campaign to ensure the tragedy that befell the eight-year-old is never repeated.

One of their key aims is to educate youngsters about the dangers of rivers and in the coming weeks several schools, including Sunnybrow Primary School where Ian was a pupil, will be visited by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to learn about water safety.

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Ian died after he fell into the River Wear near his home in Sunnybrow, near Willington, County Durham, last April.

The schoolboy had been playing with friends beside the river, which was swollen following days of heavy rain, when he fell in.

Hundreds of people, including friends and strangers, joined the emergency services in searching the river.

His body was discovered nine days later trapped beneath the water by a tree root four miles downstream from where he fell in.

Willington mayor Brian Myers, who founded the River Safety group with Ian’s grandmother Christine Bell, said: “A lot of children play by rivers, I used to do it when I was a bairn and we never thought about how dangerous it was.

“We have to get the message out to children that rivers can be very dangerous and the RNLI and other services such as the fire brigade play a crucial role in educating youngsters.

“What happened to Ian was an absolute tragedy and our dearest wish is that we never see it happen again.”

The RNLI will be visiting Sunnybrow, Hunwick, Willington, St Stephen’s, Our Lady and St Thomas and Willington Primary School in the week starting Monday, February 11.

Ian was the first of two youngsters who died in the River Wear last year.

In September, 16-year-old Colin Dodds from Bishop Auckland died after getting into difficulty while swimming with friends at the Batts in his hometown.

His body was discovered 11 hours later at the bottom of a deep section of the river known locally as 21 Foot due to its depth.