POLICE searching for a teenager believed to have been swept out to sea have confirmed his body has been found.
Reece Sweeney, 16, had been swimming with two friends at the mouth of the River Deveron, near Banff Bay in Aberdeenshire, in the early hours of Saturday.
Reece’s friends made it to the riverbank and called for help, but the teenager was last seen by Banff Bridge.
Reece’s friend, Stephanie McKendrick, 17, has reportedly told how she had struggled to save Reece’s life after they were swept off their feet by a wave while skinny-dipping.
“We were in shallow water up to the top of our legs. Then this wave hit us and we were swept away,” said Ms McKendrick.
“The current was really strong. I’m a good swimmer, but Reece isn’t.
“We both went under and I was trying to hold on to his hand – but when I came up he was not there. I shouted to him, but there was no reply.”
She added: “Reece kept jumping on my back and forcing us both down. I told him to stop it and to hold my hand and I’d get him to shore. Then the wave hit us. I just managed to get to the shore, but I was freezing.
“There was no sign of Reece,” she said. “I can hardly believe what’s happened.”
A friend, also aged 16, is believed to have saved himself by grabbing hold of a metal brace.
The ambulance service received a call at about 2:30am on Saturday. The call was forwarded to the Coastguard at Aberdeen.
Coastguard teams from Buckie, Portsoy, Banff and Gardenstown, the Macduff and Buckie RNLI lifeboats, a rescue helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth and a police underwater search team then became involved in the search operation, but there was no trace of Reece on Saturday.
Further searches were carried out yesterday morning by police and the Coastguard. Police later confirmed the discovery of a body.
Aberdeen Coastguard had described the stretch of coastline as “benign” and said the river was not swollen.
Yesterday, a police spokesperson said: “Grampian Police can now advise that the body of a young male recovered near the shoreline at Banff Bay, Banff,
following a police and Coastguard search earlier today, has been formally identified as Reece Sweeney, 16, from the local area.
“Reece was reported missing during the early hours of Saturday 21 July, 2012, having been last seen near the mouth of the River Deveron.
“A report will be forwarded to the procurator-fiscal. We would take this opportunity to thank the local public and the various maritime partner agencies involved in the search for Reece, for their invaluable assistance during this tragic incident.”
Last night, Michael Roy, Conservative councillor for Banff, expressed his sympathies.
“This is an extreme tragedy for the family,” he said. “Our thoughts are with the family and friends. It happened on probably the nicest day we’ve had this summer and probably gave the youngsters a false sense of security.”
Mr Roy added that there was a popular beach at the river mouth and it was unusual
for people to swim in the river itself.
A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of
Accidents said: “We understand the temptation to want to go swimming in rivers and lakes on a hot day, but be aware that it can be dangerous.”