Canoe-death family devasted

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A FAMILY have been left devastated after a canoe tragedy claimed the life of a beloved son aged just 33.

Hartlepool man Andrew Weatherill was killed at a treacherous spot on the River Tyne, near Hexham, Northumberland.

Today his family were too distraught to speak and were being comforted.

Emergency services launched a major search after being alerted by a member of the public who had seen a man struggling in the water.

Emergency services launched a major search after being alerted by a member of the public who had seen a man struggling in the water.

Andrew, who was alone on the river, had become trapped in a notoriously dangerous weir and was pronounced dead at hospital.

The police, ambulance, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, the Great North Air Ambulance and a helicopter from RAF Boulmer all rushed to the scene.

Mr Weatherill was winched unconscious from the canoe and airlifted to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, but was pronounced dead at the hospital on Saturday evening.

He is thought to have been in trouble for around 20 minutes before the rescuers managed to reach him.

It is not clear exactly how Andrew got into difficulty at the spot, just off the A695 in the weir by the Riding Mill pump station.

Ray Hudspith, the British Canoe Union’s paddle sport development officer for the North-East, said the spot is known locally to be extremely dangerous.

He told the Mail: “The river itself is very popular, but people are advised to get out well before the weir.

“Any weir is dangerous, this one doesn’t look as nasty as it actually is.

“This is a terribly tragic incident and our thoughts go out to the family.”

Mr Hudspith added: “The type of kayak he was on is called a sit-on kayak.

“Anyone can go and buy these from shops and more and more people seem to be doing so.

“But local knowledge is extremely important and it is vital that people get this before they go on a river.

“It’s also important to know that help is at hand, so those who are going on the river should always be in a group.”

A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: “Emergency services were called to the River Tyne at Riding Mill near Hexham at 2.25pm on Saturday, February 12, following reports of a canoeist in difficulty.

“The incident occurred just off the A695 in the weir by the Riding Mill pump station.

“Due to the turbulent river water, the canoeist was winched out of the river by an RAF Boulmer helicopter at 3.04pm and was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

“He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

“A report is being prepared for the coroner.