WATCH: Family say sad farewell as teen swept into sea off pier is named

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Family members of a 15-year-old girl who died after she was swept into the sea gathered on the beach to write farewells to her in the sand.

Caitlin Ruddy was with friends on the north pier at Cullercoats, North Tyneside, yesterday evening when she was knocked into the chilly waters, sparking a major rescue operation.

Cullercoats Bay in North Tyneside, where a 15-year-old girl named as Caitlin Ruddy was swept off the pier and later died,

Cullercoats Bay in North Tyneside, where a 15-year-old girl named as Caitlin Ruddy was swept off the pier and later died,

As an RNLI crew, stationed yards from the pier, searched for her, a dog walker found her in the water on the shore and started first aid.

By then she had spent about 30 minutes in the sea, with the air temperature around freezing.

Caitlin was found around 100 metres away on the other side of Cullercoats Bay, swept along by heavy seas and a high tide.

Efforts to save her by medics at hospital in Cramlington were in vain, Northumbria Police said.

Three friends - another 15-year-old girl and a boy and girl aged 14 - managed to escape unhurt, apart from a soaking.

Today, family members came to the beach to lay flowers and to write RIP Caitlin in the sand.

Friends also set up Facebook pages for tributes to the popular schoolgirl.

The RNLI released dramatic footage of their search showing crew members in a launch shining their torches onto the waves while coping with a sea swell.

A 999 call had sparked a major search operation involving the RNLI, Northumbria Police officers and their helicopter, ambulance crews and the Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade (TVLB).

The RNLI crew searched rocks around the north pier for about 15 minutes then spotted a man in a high-visibility jacket with two dogs, and he was administering first aid.

Anyone with information about the incident should call 101.