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Family of tragic Ian Bell launch fundraising campaign

THE family of a schoolboy who died when he was swept away in a swollen river have told of their fundraising plans as they prepare to spend their first Christmas without him.

Claire Hedley with Caleb as she spoke of Ian, inset

THE family of a schoolboy who died when he was swept away in a swollen river have told of their fundraising plans as they prepare to spend their first Christmas without him.

Parents Claire Hedley and Ian Bell lost their eight-year-old son Ian in April when he was swept away in the rain-swollen River Wear near Willington, County Durham.

Now their Christmas Day will become a tribute to him as they start fundraising for safety equipment which they hope will prevent a repeat of the tragedy that has befallen them.

Ian had been out playing with his friends near the river’s bank in Sunnybrow, County Durham, when he lost his footing and a branch he held onto snapped.

A major search operation was launched and more than a week later his body was found around three miles from where he fell in at Page Bank.

Claire, 34, who is also mother to Kirsty, 15, Benjamin, 13, and baby Caleb, nine months, said were it not for her other children, she would not be celebrating Christmas.

The family plan to use the day to celebrate Ian’s life and in 2013 they hope to bring something positive from their heartache by fundraising to improve safety along the River Wear.

“We will be going down to the river,” said Claire.

“We are going to decorate the tree with some lights and some lanterns and a butterfly and his bike. It is going to be hard but we have to get on with it.”

Ian was the second person the mother has lost to the river she describes as “cursed” after her best friend, Cameron Hawkins, fell into the river and died six years ago.

Father Ian, 33, said he too is dreading Christmas morning without his beloved son.

“It is going to be hard,” he said. “Last year Ian was up at 6am saying ‘get up, get up’.

“This year without him it is going to be very hard.”

In November County Durham and Darlington coroner Andrew Tweddle recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Claire said: “I was happy with the outcome of the inquest though I could not understand why it took so long.

“At least now we have closure where before we didn’t have.”

Claire has described Ian as a happy-go-lucky little boy who always had a smile and will be missed by the whole community.

Durham Police has estimated that local organisations pitched in a total of 2,142 hours in the 10-day search for Ian.

Pathologists told the inquest Ian died from the cold or shock of his initial immersion in water.

The couple are now looking to the future and are fundraising to pay for 10 life buoys for the river.

Anything extra from the money they raise will be donated to volunteers at the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team.

A fundraiser at The New Inn in Willington raised £1,000 for the appeal and more than £2,000 has now been drummed up for the cause so far.

The family have thanked all the businesses in the community which donated raffle items and all those who pitched in to help in the search for him.

 

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