A MAJOR investigation has been launched into the death of a teenage soldier who was swept away by a swollen river after torrential rain.

The 17-year-old was found buried under more than a foot of silt after a huge search operation involving the army, police, search-and-rescue teams and a helicopter from the RAF.

He had been taking part in a combat fitness test on Hipswell Moor near Catterick Garrison, where he was recruit at the Infantry Training Centre.

He had only been in the Army for a few weeks and although next-of-kin have been informed a formal identification has still to be made.

Around 50 recruits on the exercise crossed the swollen Risedale Beck without incident on Friday morning but three were swept away when they were hit by what one witness described as "something like tidal bore."

Two were dragged to safety but the third was swept away by the force of the water.

He was eventually found at about 4.15pm on Saturday, around 150 metres downstream from the crossing point, under silt at the bottom of a pool which was some 6ft deep at the height of the flood.

He was found by members of the Teesdale Mountain Rescue Team, who removed boulders which had acted as a dam and created the pool.

The body was taken to the mortuary at Harrogate District Hospital and the coroner has been informed.

Police, the military and the Health and Safety Executive are now investigating and attempting to pinpoint exactly why the tragedy happened and whether the right precautions had been taken..

The 8ft crossing point was a man-made affair of pipes and concrete that is normally easily forded, but with the flooding the water was reported to be chest-deep.

It's believed the recruits had linked arms to cross but the three lost their grip.

Paul Denning, controller for the Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team, said: "He was found quite close to the point where he went missing but that can by typical of these situations. Bodies tend to be dragged under.

"There were areas which were quite deep because boulders acted as dams, holding the water back."