Hero teen died in vain effort to save drowning friend
A teenager who lost her life trying in vain to save another girl from a fast-flowing river "died a hero", a friend has said.
Tonibeth Purvis (15) jumped in to save Chloe Fowler (14), who entered the River Wear at Washington, Tyne and Wear, to cool off. But after a huge search and rescue operation the bodies of both teenagers were recovered by police dive units on Tuesday night.
Police have since said that one or two others also nearly drowned trying to help their friends.
Chloe's family issued a statement through police yesterday.
It said: "Chloe was a beautiful, kind and caring girl and we as a family are devastated by what has happened.
"We would like to thank everyone involved in helping us to look for the girls.
"We would ask that we are given some time and privacy to grieve."
The grieving families released photos of the girls which showed Tonibeth with long blonde hair and wearing grey glasses, and Chloe posing with flowers in her long dark hair.
Bethany Rose-McCaffrey (15) was friends with Tonibeth and said she was a role model who had died a hero.
"I knew Tonibeth, she was loving and caring and always put people before her," she said. "If it had been a friend or a stranger, she would have gone to help.
"I did not believe it was actually her, but then I found out that it was.
"I'm really shocked because I did not think something like this would happen.
"She has died a hero trying to save a friend's life, which shows we really do have friends out there."
Northumbria Police Superintendent Alan Veitch said: "Chloe went in first, Tonibeth and others went in to help her.
"Tonibeth got into difficulties and so have the others."
Mr Veitch said Chloe, from Shiney Row, near Sunderland, went in of her own will.
"The emerging picture is that she went in to keep cool.
"I think there's a lot of children who were trying to effect a rescue.
"It's difficult for the children who were involved in the actual incident itself as one or two of them nearly drowned."
Yesterday morning friends of the two girls lay flowers on the riverbank while paying their respects.
The teenagers were in the River Wear at Fatfield, Washington, at around 3pm on Tuesday 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 had been out jogging.
"If it had been a friend or a stranger, she would have gone to help. She has died a hero trying to save a friend's life, which shows we really do have friends out there. She was loving and caring and put other people before her. She was a really good role model and always had a smile on her face."
Bethany Rose-McCaffrey describing friend Tonibeth Purvis