A CORONER has ruled that the deaths of two schoolgirls who drowned were tragic accidents.
Tonibeth Purvis and Chloe Fowler died in the River Wear at Fatfield Bridge, near Washington, in July.
An inquest in Sunderland yesterday heard more than 100 members of the emergency services took part in the massive rescue bid.
The hearing heard Chloe, 15, from Shiney Row, got into difficulties after jumping into the river with a friend.
A teenage boy was able to rescue one of the girls, before Tonibeth, 14, from Barmston, went in to try to help Chloe.
A man, believed to be an off-duty police officer, swam across the river in a bid to save the pair.
An angler, who could not swim, also tried to reach the girls with a tree branch, while his friend ran for help.
But all their attempts failed and the girls’ bodies were recovered from the river.
Sunderland Coroner Derek Winter said Tonibeth had made a “valiant effort” to save her friend.
He said: “These events were traumatic at the time and remain so. They touched the families and community.”
“Chloe jumped into the River Wear and got into difficulties. Then Tonibeth, in a valiant effort to save her, got into difficulties.
“Both were overcome by the river and drowned, despite efforts by the public and the rescue services.”
He recorded a conclusion both girls died accidentally.
Sunderland City Council now carries out weekly checks of signs and life-saving equipment at the river, which rises and falls quickly with the tide.
* Conclusion: Accidental death