Still no sign of eight-year-old boy after river plunge, hopes 'fading'


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The Independent Online

Police scouring a swollen river for a missing eight-year-old boy said hopes of finding him alive were "fading" as the operation stretched into a fourth day.

A major search was launched when Ian Bell fell into the Wear at Willington, County Durham, while playing with friends on Friday night.

The schoolboy, from Sunnybrow, was in the area of the Brown Cow pub and an intense search was continuing about 440 yards (400m) downstream from there.

Durham Police said they were co-ordinating the operation, working with the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Mountain Rescue, Durham County Council's Civil Contingency Unit and the Northumbria Police marine unit.

A specialist team from Derbyshire Police was also at the scene, using an underwater camera.

Chief Inspector Graham Milne said: "This has been a huge community effort. We've been overwhelmed by the support of local people who have turned out in force to help find Ian.

"Sadly, as this is the fourth day of the search, we think the likelihood of finding Ian alive is fading.

"Ian's family are aware of this, and we're keeping them updated with any developments."

Officers had been "inundated" with offers of help from the public, to the point where the force had to remind people to be mindful of their own safety.

A police spokesman said: "As the search continues, police are reminding people to consider their own personal safety when negotiating the area around the river bank.

"The river is still full and the banks will be slippery underfoot."