A CAMPAIGN group set up in the name of drowning victim Ian Bell has sent a message of support to the parents of a 16-year-old who died while swimming in the River Wear.

Eight-year-old Ian, from Sunnybrow, County Durham, was swept away by the river while playing with friends near his home in April and his body was found eight days later.

His family and local residents have started a campaign to try to prevent further tragedies, and said they were devastated to hear of the death of Colin Dodds in the same river this weekend.

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Colin had been swimming in the Wear at Bishop Auckland on Saturday afternoon when he got into difficulty.

His body was found at the bottom of a pool following a search by police, rescue teams, the fire service and helicopters.

Now the Ian Bell campaign group, which is led by Ian’s grandmother Christine Bell, is offering its support to Colin’s family.

Brian Myers, chairman of the group and county councillor for the Willington ward where Ian lived, said: “We were devastated to hear that another young man has lost his life in the river just a few miles away from the tragedy with Ian.

“It is a horrible thing for any family to have to deal with and we want them to know that we are thinking of them at this time and Ian’s family in particular have an understanding of what they are going through.”

The group is still in its early days but has already earmarked educating youngsters about the dangers of rivers as a key priority.

Coun Myers said: “What happened at the weekend serves as a very tragic reminder of what we need to achieve, which is to do our best to ensure no one else loses their life in the river.”

The group has enlisted the help of local fishermen to create a map highlighting the danger spots in the river and are also looking at installing lifebuoys alongside a poster of Ian’s story along the river.

The inquest into the death of Colin was opened and adjourned yesterday. A post-mortem examination has been carried out but a cause of death is not yet known.

A night to raise funds for Colin’s family will be held at Tindale Crescent Workingmen’s Club on Saturday, September 29, at 7pm.

Tickets are £5 at the door. To donate raffle prizes, call 01388- 664652.