Three bodies were found in the River Tyne yesterday after two brothers and their cousin failed to return from a kayaking trip.
A rescue operation saw the bodies recovered from the river in Northumberland, where the three men from South Shields had gone out in kayaks on Sunday.
Formal identification has yet to take place but police believe the bodies are those of the brothers aged 41 and 40, and their cousin aged 36.
The men had gone out kayaking in the Hexham area on Sunday. Northumbria Police received a report of concern for the trio at 11pm after they failed to return to their homes.
Searches for the trio were launched overnight and at just before 1.15am officers found one of the missing men’s cars, a silver Vauxhall Vectra hackney carriage, at Tyne Green, near to Hexham Rowing Club. A second vehicle belonging to them was found at 4.10am at Wylam train station car park.
At 5.10am, a body was recovered from the river at Riding Mill by a search and rescue helicopter from RAF Boulmer. A second body was recovered from the river by the Boulmer crew at just before 6.20am in the Corbridge area.
By late morning, the search took in the river from Hexham to Ovingham, with subsequent claims that it was stretching as far as Tynemouth.
It involved police with marine units in dinghies and the force helicopter, the Boulmer team, HM Coastguard, and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, which deployed swift water rescue teams.
Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade and North of Tyne, Northumberland National Park and Swaledale mountain rescue teams were also involved, with the mountain teams combing the river banks, going out in dinghies and deploying a search dog.
At 2.10pm, the third body was found by police under the Broomhaugh A68 bridge, near Riding Mill.
Two kayaks were found during the searches of the river with a blue model and paddle visible at the spot where the third body was discovered.
An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the men’s deaths has begun and a report is being prepared for the coroner.
It is believed the men were advised against going into the river during Sunday’s bad weather and that their kayaks were not suitable for the fast flowing water.
Chief superintendent Gordon Milward said: “The weather was unpredictable, in terms of some very heavy showers, and the river was higher than usual and fast-flowing. They would be challenging conditions for anybody who decided to go into the water.
“Part of the thrill of kayaking is that element of risk. What I would say to anyone is balance that against personal safety. If you are in any doubt about how well-equipped you feel you are to go into the water, step back and come back another day.”
The tragedy came three years after young father Andrew Weatherill died when his kayak became trapped in a weir at Riding Mill.