No One To Blame For Boy's Death

12 November 2012, 16:04 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

An inquest's heard an 8 year old boy died after being swept away by a fast-flowing river in County Durham while playing with friends.

Ian Bell grabbed a branch after falling into the River Wear when it was in spate in April, but the branch snapped and he was washed away.

The boy, who had been playing with two friends near his home in Sunnybrow, was found days later after a major operation involving police, fire, search specialists and the RAF, joined by hundreds of members of the public.

A diver who decided to help the search found Ian's body snagged on a tree root under the water three-and-a-quarter miles downstream from the spot where he fell in.

Pathologist Dr Paul Barrett told the inquest at Crook Civic Centre that the cause of death was "immersion in water''.

That was different from drowning, in that the shock of the cold or panic could have led to Ian's death.

County Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Chief Superintendent Andy Reddick, who led the police operation to find Ian, said officers were alerted 50 minutes after the boy fell in.

He was playing with two friends - unnamed in the inquest - in a fast-flowing stream close to where it met the Wear when he slipped and was quickly pulled into the main river.

In the days that followed, search specialists checked the 25 miles of the Wear to the sea at Sunderland.

The coroner said:
"I think considerable thanks should be given to all the people involved, the professionals as well as the lay volunteers.''

Ian's family, however, felt the police operation was inadequate, and after the inquest his mother, Claire Bell, instructed reporters:
"Don't thank the police, thank everybody else but the police.''

After the hearing Mr Reddick warned youngsters of the dangers of playing near water, adding:
"There's no-one to be blamed - it was just lads being adventurous.''