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Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2007, 18:55 GMT
Teenager missing in river named
Ben Halsey-Jones/cTVP
Police divers resumed the search for Ben Halsey-Jones on Monday
Police have named an Oxfordshire teenager who has been missing since falling off his bike and into the swollen River Thames.

Ben Halsey-Jones, 15, from Wolvercote, Oxford, fell in on Sunday afternoon in the Port Meadow Marina area.

Speaking from the family home, Ben's father Robin, 41, said his son was a "well-liked, sociable lad" who will be sorely missed.

Specialist search and recovery divers have been combing the river for Ben.

Mr Halsey-Jones said his wife Lisa, and the couple's other children, Sam, 13, and 10-year-old twins Jake and Hannah, "would like to thank all our family and friends for their support".

A further tribute came form Jill Judson, the head teacher of Cherwell School in north Oxford, who described him as "a very nice young man".

"They are very nice people and this is the most terrible tragedy for them - it must very difficult to know how to get over something like this," she said.

Mrs Judson said she had explained to a "tearful and stunned" year 10 group that a fellow pupil had possibly drowned for the second time in a year.

In June last year, Hassan Hussain, 15, died after jumping into the River Cherwell.

There were life rings all the way along the river and it looked like they had been used
Giles Shearing, local resident
"It is devastating for his family and his friends and we are just desperately sorry this has happened," said Mrs Judson.

Thames Valley Police and local people used small boats and a helicopter to scour the area of fast-flowing water on Sunday but at 2100 GMT they called off the search until 1030 GMT on Monday.

Police said the river was swollen and described conditions as treacherous.

The teenager and his friends are thought to have been playing on bicycles on the flooded towpath when he fell in at about 1700 GMT.

Locals help search

Local resident Giles Shearing, 40, told how the alarm was raised by his two friends, who said their friend had drowned.

Mr Shearing said he was working on his houseboat, the Gaiety, on the other side of the river when the two boys, who seemed to be in shock, told him and a passer-by "our friend has just drowned".

Mr Shearing said he and the passer-by used a small boat to search along the river to Osney Lock, a quarter of a mile downriver.

Police divers search the river Thames for the missing teenager
Police divers resumed the search of the river Thames on Monday

He said: "We had a hope that maybe we would find the boy and be able to resuscitate him at that stage, but he had gone in 20 minutes prior to my being alerted.

"I think they might have found his bicycle. He did bob up once fairly near to where he fell in and the passer-by felt very guilty that he hadn't run down the towpath or done something then.

"There were life rings all the way along the river and it looked like they had been used."

He said they eventually had to abandon the search and leave the boat when the current became too strong.

Port Meadow, a popular beauty spot in the city, regularly becomes flooded when the stretch of river - known as Isis - overflows in winter.


SEE ALSO
Teenager river search called off
21 Jan 07 |  Oxfordshire

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