THE family of a 15-year-old girl who died after she was swept into the sea gathered on the beach yesterday to write farewells to her in the sand.

Caitlin Ruddy was with friends on the north pier at Cullercoats, North Tyneside, on Saturday evening when she was knocked into the water by a wave, sparking a major rescue operation.

As an RNLI crew, stationed yards from the pier, searched for her, a dog walker found her in the water beside the shore on the other side of Cullercoats Bay and started first aid.

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The Northern Echo:

Caitlin Ruddy died after being swept into the sea.

By then she had spent about 30 minutes in the sea.

Paramedics worked with police, RNLI crews and Volunteer Life Brigade members for around 20 minutes to resuscitate the unconscious teenager.

She was then taken by ambulance to Cramlington Hospital but was later pronounced dead.

Three friends, a girl also 15 and a boy and a girl aged 14, who were with Caitlin at the time were also taken Cramlington Hospital as a precaution but were unhurt.

Family members came to the beach on Sunday to lay flowers and to write tributes in the sand.

The Northern Echo:

Caitlin's stepdad Ashley Cook, mum Sabrina Cook, and sister Jessica Moran.

Caitlin's mother Sabrina Cook, 35, described her daughter as "beautiful".

"She had a bubbly personality. She had a heart of gold. She will be a huge miss to everyone.

"She was my mum and dad's first grandchild and my grandma's first great-grandchild.

"It hasn't sunk in for us yet. I'm just grateful for the RNLI and the hospital and everyone who helped her.

"I want people to be aware of the water, it's dangerous."

Caitlin's heartbroken sister Jessica Moran, 12, said the death did not seem real.

"It's really difficult today. I'm going to really miss her a lot.

"She was really confident, really pretty and she was really nice to me.

"We were really close sisters. I still think this is a dream."

Caitlin's grandfather Thomas Ruddy, 56, added: "We just want people to be aware of the dangers of the water. We think the pier should be closed off completely. It's bad enough in the summer let alone in winter."

One of the tributes in the sand read: "RIP Caitlin, Uncle Sean loves his Princess xxx"

Another said: "RIP my little princess love Aunty Cheryl xxx" and "RIP Caitlin love Nana xx".

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo:

Caitlin's family left wrote tribues and left flowers in the sand for the teenager.

Friends set up Facebook pages for tributes to the popular schoolgirl.

One friend Lisa Adams wrote: “Goodbye beautiful, see you again soon. I only seen you yesterday morning laughing with your mam.”

The RNLI yesterday released dramatic footage of their search showing crew members in a launch shining their torches onto the waves.

RNLI, Northumbria Police officers and their helicopter, ambulance crews and the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade (TVLB) were all involved in the search for Caitlin.

The RNLI crew searched rocks around the north pier for about 15 minutes then spotted a man in a high-visibility jacket with two dogs who was administering first aid to the teenager.

RNLI volunteer Curtis Dunn, who worked on the search, said fellow crew members jumped off their launch to help the man.

He said: "We don't know this member of the public, he was just down walking his dogs. We would like to pass on our thanks to him."

Peter Lilley, a captain with the TVLB whose team worked on the shore to spot the teenager, said: "She was unconscious and not breathing when she was found in the water and CPR was started straight away."

The spot was popular with teenagers and Mr Lilley urged people to take care, saying: "We think she was in the water between 25 and 35 minutes.

"We are not quite sure what happened, it is possible she knocked unconscious as there's lots of rocks."

Dr Clare Guilding, a lecturer at Newcastle University who lives in Cullercoats, was alerted by the police helicopter hovering overhead.

She said: "The weather was clear but it was absolutely freezing.

"It said it was minus 2C (28.4F) but once you get out on the front it was just bitterly, bitterly cold. The sea was choppy but I have seen it worse than that before."

Chief Inspector Paul Knox said: "We need to remind people of the danger of the sea, particularly in the dark and cold at this time of year, when tides are high and people can be taken unawares by the strength of the waves and the inherent dangers of the sea."

Anyone with information about the incident should call 101.

The Northern Echo:

Caitlin lost her life after being swept into the sea at Cullercoates Bat, North Tyneside.