Family in farewell to pier wave death girl Caitlin
Family members of a 15-year-old girl who died after she was swept into the sea gathered on the beach 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 chilly waters, 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 on the shore and started first aid. By then she had spent about 30 minutes in the sea, with an air temperature around freezing.
Caitlin was found around 100 metres away on the other side of Cullercoats Bay, swept along by heavy seas and a high tide.
Efforts to save her by medics at hospital in Cramlington were in vain, Northumbria Police said.
Three friends, a girl also 15 and a boy and a girl aged 14, managed to escape unhurt apart from a soaking.
Family members came to the beach to lay flowers and to write RIP Caitlin in the sand. Friends also set up Facebook pages for tributes to the popular schoolgirl.
The RNLI released dramatic footage of their search showing crew members in a launch shining their torches onto the waves while coping with a sea swell.
A 999 call had sparked a major search operation involving the RNLI, Northumbria Police officers and their helicopter, ambulance crews and the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade (TVLB).
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, and he was administering first aid.
RNLI man 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."
Before the girl died, Chief Inspector Paul Knox said: "People should always be careful around water and if the sea is looking rough with waves pounding onto the pier, we would advise people to be particularly cautious and keep their distance."
Anyone with information about the incident should call 101.
Caitlin's mother Sabrina Cook told ITV News Tyne Tees her loss had not sunk in.
She said: "I don't know where I am at the minute, I'm still expecting her to come in and say 'I'm here, ma, you shouldn't have worried'."
She added: "She loved her friends, her family. She wanted to be a pilot.
"She loved her college friends. She is going to be a really big miss."
Northumbria Police officially named the dead girl and said she came from Newbiggin Hall in Newcastle.
A force spokeswoman said: "Our thoughts remain with her family."