UK
23/07/2013 21:45 BST | Updated 24/07/2013 06:32 BST

Bodies Recovered From River Wear After Teenage Girls Go Missing

UPDATED 06:30, 24 July 2013 - Police confirm recovery of bodies

Dive teams have recovered the bodies of two teenage girls who went missing as they played in a fast-flowing river, Northumbria Police said tonight.

The pair were spotted getting into trouble as they played in the River Wear at Fatfield, Washington, Tyne and Wear, at around 3pm.

missing girls river wear

The girls are believed to have got into difficulty because of strong currents in the river

Search teams located the body of one of the teenagers and a subsequent search of the same stretch of river later found the second.

The force said the families of both girls, who have not yet been identified, had been informed.

A Northumbria police spokesman said: "Search dive teams have found a second body of a female.

"Families of both girls have been informed.

"Both bodies have been taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital.

"Activities at the river will now be scaled down and inquiries will be carried out into the circumstances of the incident."

An off-duty policeman and a member of the public tried to save the pair before around 100 emergency service personnel joined the search and rescue effort.

A Northumbria Police spokesman revealed the bodies of the two girls had been recovered.

Earlier, Superintendent Alan Veitch said the rescuers were alerted after the pair were spotted "in difficulty".

He said: "One was an off-duty police officer going for a run who dived in and saved a boy who was trying to save one of the missing girls.

"Another gentleman dived in and swam the width of the river to get to one of the girls but he came up empty-handed. He was distraught, as you can imagine."

The river was tidal up to a point upstream from where the children went missing, which caused a lot of debris and foliage in the river, the officer said. They went under around 100 yards downstream, at a bend in the river, the officer said.

He believed the tide might have turned at around the time they got into difficulty.

He added: "Today was one of the hottest days of the year, it's the school holidays and it's tempting to go in the water.

"There are big, strong, powerful river currents and this is not the place to lark about in the water."

Paul Cronin, 63, who lives nearby, saw one of the men who had attempted a rescue.

He said: "This gentleman came running up towards the park and I thought it was strange because he was dressed in his boxer shorts, even though it's warm.

"He had just crawled out of the river and had nearly drowned himself.

"He was screaming at me, 'Can you swim?'."

They went back to the river but the first rescuer was too exhausted to go back in and Mr Cronin said when he got there, he saw no sign of the girls.

There was a group of three teenage boys who had been playing with the girls.

"By the time I got there it was too late," he said. "She had gone under the water. If she had been on the surface I would have gone in."

Mr Cronin said a sister of one of the missing girls was soon at the scene.

"She was in a right state, trying to get in touch with her mother but her phone was dead," he said.

Scores of people gathered in small groups close to the scene of the major search, by the Biddick Inn pub.

Fire crews, one in a dinghy searching the river, joined police specialists and a coastguard team.