Hunt continues for river fall boy

Ian Thomas Bell, eight, is thought to have fallen into the River Wear near Willington, County Durham (Durham Police/PA)

A specialist police search team searches the River Wear after an eight-year-old boy fell into the swollen river

First published in National News © by

The search for an eight-year-old boy believed to have fallen into a rain-swollen river has entered its fourth day.

Ian Bell is thought to have fallen into the River Wear at Sunnybrow, near Willington, County Durham, while playing with friends at around 7pm on Friday.

Durham Police said they were yet to find Ian, from Sunnybrow, despite a multi-agency search and help from members of the community.

A spokesman said the force had been "inundated" with calls from members of the public offering their assistance, with many actively searching for the boy over the weekend.

But Chief Superintendent Andy Reddick, leading the search, urged people to think of their own safety. "We have been overwhelmed by the support and offers of assistance by the local and wider community. However, it is important that the public are aware of the dangers when searching the river banks."

He added: "So far, we have been co-ordinating trained officers with specialist equipment along the River Wear and it is imperative we manage the search to ensure the safety of everyone involved. We continue to search for Ian using the resources we have available."

Police said the community centre at Sunnybrow was being used as a support centre for anyone affected by the events of the weekend, with people on hand to offer advice and assistance.

Officers have searched the River Wear up to Sunderland Bridge, with County Durham Fire Brigade checking the water and the embankments by boat up to Durham Rowing Club.

Janice Larnach, the owner of the Brown Trout pub near to where Ian is believed to have fallen in, said the boy's brother had told search teams he saw his sibling fall and grab on to a tree branch, which then snapped. She said the area had experienced heavy rainfall during the last week and the River Wear was flooded on Friday.

Mrs Larnach said she believed the boy's bicycle had been discovered on the river bank.

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