Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Pain of Seeing River Tragedy

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Pain of Seeing River Tragedy

Article excerpt

Byline: Naomi Paylor

Helpless witnesses of a Teesside drowning tragedy told today how they have been left haunted by their failure to save a woman's life.

Lesley Bonner, Michael Turnbull and Christopher Murphy desperately searched the riverbank near Victoria Bridge, Stockton for a lifebuoy to throw to a woman struggling in the Tees.

But as reported in yesterday's Gazette their efforts were in vain as all the safety equipment cases they checked along the bank were empty.

The would-be rescuers, who came forward following our report, have all suffered sleepless nights since the tragedy, just after midnight on Monday.

The 49-year-old local woman's body was pulled out of the river at 4am by divers from Northumbria Police.

Just hours after the horrific incident, Lesley Bonner and Michael Turnbull returned to the scene where they left flowers and a signed card which read "we have failed you, sorry, Mike and Les".

They also left letters highlighting the lack of lifebuoys available to them that tragic night.

In our exclusive report yesterday we asked for the letter writer to come forward.

This led to Miss Bonner, 19, contacting us to describe how she and her partner Michael Turnbull, 41, watched helplessly as the woman drowned near Victoria Bridge in Thornaby.

The couple, of Bishopton Road, Stockton, were returning from a fishing trip to Whitby with their two dogs when they pulled over in their car.

Miss Bonner said: "We ran towards where the woman was and started looking for lifebuoys.

"I just ran and ran and ran up and down the river screaming across 'there aren't any lifebuoys'.

"My partner and I could see the woman splashing about in the water and then she shouted 'help me, help me'.

"My partner shouted me to come and hold the dogs as he was ready to go in but then the emergency services arrived. …

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