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River girl 'died a hero and friend'

A teenager died a hero but "most importantly" a friend when she tried in vain to save a girl from a fast-flowing river, the rector conducting her funeral said.

Tonibeth Purvis, 15, from Barmston, Washington, Tyne and Wear, and Chloe Fowler, 14, from Shiney Row, near Sunderland, died after getting into difficulties in the River Wear last Tuesday.

It is thought that Chloe got into the river at Fatfield, Washington, to cool off during the heatwave and, when she started to struggle in the water, other teenagers went in to help her.

The Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Washington, David Glover, said friends of the Glee fan had sent her parents a series of comforting messages.

One said: "Keep that gorgeous smile on your face and remember that everyone's so proud of you. You're such an inspiration! You were born a princess and died a hero. Another said: "Washington School has lost an amazing person and you will always have a place in our hearts."

A friend added: "You're my hero. I am so thankful that you tried to save Chloe's life. You inspire me. You died a hero and always will be."

Tonibeth's parents do not want to attribute blame, Mr Glover said.

"One thing that has profoundly moved me in this is that Tonibeth's parents want it made clear that what happened was just an accident - no-one was to blame, no-one should live with any guilt about this.

"This was just a tragic accident. But if there was any consolation for you it may be in the fact that Tonibeth died trying to help her friend. She died a hero but, most importantly, she died a friend."

Holy Trinity Church was packed with distraught mourners, who included girls wearing T-shirts with the teenager's picture on the front, and "RIP Tonibeth Purvis, born a princess, died a hero" on the back. Many were in tears when the coffin was carried out of the church to the Candlelight mix of Heaven by DJ Sammy.

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