UK
24/07/2013 06:23 BST

Tonibeth Purvis And Chloe Fowler Named As River Wear Teens

PA
Undated handout photo issued by Northumbria Police of Tonibeth Purvis, 15, (left) from Barmston, Washington and Chloe Fowler, 14, (right) from Shiney Row who died after getting into trouble while swimming in the River Wear in Washington, Tyne and Wear

Police have named two teenagers who died after getting into difficulties while playing in the River Wear in hot weather.

They were Tonibeth Purvis, 15, from Barmston, Washington, Tyne and Wear, and Chloe Fowler, 14, from Shiney Row, near Sunderland.

Their grieving families released photos of the girls which showed Tonibeth wearing grey glasses with long blonde hair and Chloe posing for the picture with flowers in her long dark hair.

Friends took to Twitter to express their shock at the death of the two teenagers.

One user, @Michael_Hall96, said: "I'll never step foot in that river again, not taking life for granted anymore!! RIP toni purvis and chloe fowler"

And @shannon97xxxxxx wrote: "cant get over whats happened, rip toni beth and chloe fowlerx"

Another user, @laurenlsmithx, said: "Rest in peace Toni-Beth Purvis and Chloe Fowler, rest in peace angels, you will both be such a big miss."

The girls were in the Wear at Fatfield, Washington, at around 3pm yesterday when they were swept away by strong currents.

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

A boy who also attempted to rescue the girls was pulled to safety by the police officer, who was out jogging.

Emergency services workers searched into the evening to locate the girls and as darkness fell a helicopter searchlight was used to search the river.

Dozens of people had gathered at the river banks to watch the rescue effort and were left in a state of shock as the news broke that both bodies had been found.

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 Cronin said when he got there, he saw no sign of the girls.

A Northumbria Police spokesman last night said that the two bodies had been taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital and that the families had been informed.