Family of Wear death teenager ‘overwhelmed’ by support

Charlene Bell, mum of Tonibeth at a funday organised by Tonibrth's friends in her memory after she died in the River Wear last week.
Charlene Bell, mum of Tonibeth at a funday organised by Tonibrth's friends in her memory after she died in the River Wear last week.
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THE family of a heroic teenager who died trying to save a pal from drowning in the Wear have spoken of their loss for the first time.

Tonibeth Purvis, 15, and Chloe Fowler, 14, died last week after getting into trouble in a stretch of the water in Fatfield.

The family of Tonibeth Purvis, mum, Charlene Bell, Uncle, Ross Gregory, brother, Micheal Purvis and sister, Georgia Purvis thank Tonibeth's friends, Caitlin Francis and Ilarna Clark for helping to organise a funday in her memory.

The family of Tonibeth Purvis, mum, Charlene Bell, Uncle, Ross Gregory, brother, Micheal Purvis and sister, Georgia Purvis thank Tonibeth's friends, Caitlin Francis and Ilarna Clark for helping to organise a funday in her memory.

Tonibeth, who was from Barmston, was hailed a hero after diving in to try to save Chloe, of Shiney Row, when she got into difficulties.

Despite the best efforts of passers-by as well as scores of emergency services personnel, the pair drowned, and their bodies discovered hours later.

At the Millennium Centre in Concord, Washington, yesterday, a fund-raising afternoon took place to raise money for Tonibeth’s family, which her mum Charlene attended.

Charlene’s cousin Roxene Claxton, 36, said: “Charlene is overwhelmed with what everybody has done to show their support at this tragic time.”

Friends and family of Tonibeth Purvis take part in a balloon release in her memory at a fun day organised by Tonibeth's friends, Ilarni Clark and Caitlin Francis.   Tonibeth Purvis died in the River Wear last week.

Friends and family of Tonibeth Purvis take part in a balloon release in her memory at a fun day organised by Tonibeth's friends, Ilarni Clark and Caitlin Francis. Tonibeth Purvis died in the River Wear last week.

Balloons were released in honour of Tonibeth, with friends wearing T-shirts with a picture of her on and bearing the words “Born a princess, died a hero”.

Raffles, a cake sale and small-sided football matches also took place with hundreds of people, young and old, turning out.

Ilarni Clark, schoolfriend of Tonibeth, was one of those who helped to organise the event.

Ilarni, 15, of Castletown, who went to Washington School with Tonibeth, said those who knew her wanted to help her grieving family as much as they possibly could.

“We didn’t expect as many people as this to turn up today,” said Ilarni.

“The last week has been horrible. It was just a few days before she died that Tonibeth was making bracelets for people in English at school.”

Karen Quigley, manager at the Millennium Centre, said it was important for the Washington community to show their support for Tonibeth’s family.

“When the girls came to us to organise this, they said they expected maybe 30 or 40 of their friends to come along, but there has been a lot more,” said Karen.

“But we really support what they are doing in honour of Tonibeth.

“It’s been a total shock to everybody in the community and we are happy to help in any way that we can.”

A fund-raising walk will be held for the girls tomorrow, starting at Fatfield Bridge, close to where they drowned, at about 2pm.

The walkers will then head back to Shiney Row before releasing balloons in memory of the teenagers.