A TEENAGER died a hero but “most importantly” a friend when she tried in vain to save a girl from a fast-flowing river in Tyne and Wear, the rector conducting her funeral has said.
The 15-year-old, who died last week trying to save best friend, Chloe Fowler, from the River Wear near Fatfield, Washington, was remembered as “fun loving, happy-go-lucky teenager” today.
Rev Canon David Glover, rector of Holy Trinity church, Washington, where the service was held, thanked the emergency services, and everyone who has helped with fund-raising for the family since Tonibeth’s death, on behalf of her relatives, and said lessons could be learnt from the tragedy.
“If there is any consolation it may be in the fact that Tonibeth died trying to help her friend.
“I know the family are very grateful to all those who tried to help Tonibeth and Chloe, and to the emergency services.
“Tonibeth clearly had some amazing friends and it’s been amazing how you have responded to these deaths – your fund-raising has been quite remarkable.”
He also passed on a message from the family to say they hold no one responsible for her death.
“One thing that has profoundly moved me 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.”
Rev Canon Glover spoke of friendship a lot during the eulogy.
He said: “Most of all Tonibeth loved being with her friends and hanging out with them, and if she wasn’t with them she loved catching up with them on Facebook, and her ipad was never far from her.”
Scores of the Washington School pupil’s pals packed out Holy Trinity, some wearing T-shirts with a photograph of Tonibeth on the front, and “born a princess died a hero” written on the back.
Family in attendance included mum Charlene, dad Michael, siblings Michael, Georgia, Charlie, Josh, and uncle Ross, who she lived with.
The half hour ceremony ended with the song Heaven, by DJ Sammy, being played as the congregation lined the path from the church to the hearse.
A white coffin topped with pink flowers was then driven to Sunderland Crematorium where a private family service was held.
Mourners, some sobbing and hugging, stood at the road side until the cars had driven away, before attending a wake at The Stella pub, in Albany.
Donations from the funeral were given to the Great North East Air Ambulance Service.