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Campaign to warn youngsters of water dangers
Tributes left by the river where Tonibeth Purvis, 15, from Barmston, Washington, Tyne and Wear, and Chloe Fowler, 14, from Shiney Row, near Sunderland, died after getting into trouble.
THE deaths of two teenage girls who drowned in the turbulent tidal waters of a North-East river are to form the basis of a hard hitting campaign.
An inquest today (Thursday, October 24) heard how Tonibeth Purvis, 15, tried to save her friend, Chloe Fowler, 14, after she got into difficulty in the River Wear at Washington during a heat wave in July.
Despite a massive emergency response to save the girls they drowned in the fast- flowing water, but their bodies were not found until hours later when the tide had subsided.
Next year, their deaths will be used as part of a national campaign to deter young people from entering the water to cool off during hot weather.
Detective Inspector Mark Ord told the hearing at Sunderland Civic Centre said: “Last year an awful lot of children died in this way. There will be a campaign to highlight the dangers involved in open water and flowing water.”
Drowning Prevention Week will feature water safety messages and runs from June 21-29.
Di Standley, chairman of the National Water Safety Forum said: “The summer of 2013 was a terrible time, as we saw more than 30 people drown in the UK during the heat wave over a short period of six to seven weeks.”
Tonibeth, of Stockley Road, Washington, jumped in the water near Fatfield Bridge after Chloe, of Hunter Street, Shiney Row, got into difficulty. But Tonibeth immediately found herself in trouble as well.
The inquest heard how friends and members of the public - including an off-duty police officer who dived into the water and two local fishermen who tried to reach the girls with a branch - tried in vain to save the girls.
Dozens of emergency service workers rushed to the scene, including specialist dive teams, the fire brigade, a helicopter and 40 police officers.
Detective Inspector Mark Ord of Northumbria Police said emergency services received the initial report just before 3pm, but Tonibeth’s body was not found until 8.49pm and Chloe’s at 9.57pm.
Concluding both girls died accidental deaths, Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter said: “These events were traumatic and remain so. They touched the families and the whole community.
"Chloe jumped into the water and got into difficulty. Then Tonibeth in a valiant attempt to try and save her also got into difficulty.
"Both were overwhelmed by the river and drowned despite the efforts of friends and the rescue services.”
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