By Bill Heaney
Blazing sunshine brought large crowds and terrible tragedy with them to Balloch on Loch Lomondside last evening (Sunday).
Police and other emergency services, including two helicopters, were called to Balloch following reports that a 12-year-old girl, named later as Ava Gray, of Alexandria, had slipped and fallen at Balloch Bridge and was missing in the swift-flowing River Leven.
BBC Scotland reported at lunchtime that another girl, who has not been named, had been with Ava but had been rescued by a man, who was also named locally as Laurence Gibson from Dumbarton.
Police Scotland said: “Around 6.45pm on Sunday, 9 August, police were called to a report of a 12 year-old girl in difficulty in the River Leven, near Balloch Bridge.
“Emergency services attended and searches were carried out. Around 9.45pm, the young girl was recovered from the water. Sadly she was pronounced dead at the scene. Her relatives have been informed.
“Inquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances of the incident, but the death is not being treated as suspicious and a full report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.”
The sound of emergency vehicles’ sirens and sight of blue lights on the A82 alerted the community to the fact that a serious incident was happening.
Police aided by two helicopter crews were joined by firefighters, ambulance personnel and members of the Luss RNLI lifeboat crew.
Initially, it was believed three persons were in the water – a young girl, her friend and a youth, but it was announced later that the search was for the one girl only.
It is believed that a number of members of the public went into the river to assist when the alarm was raised.
Busy with local people out for a walk along the towpaths in the evening sunshine, day trippers and tourists, Balloch Road and Balloch Bridge were been sealed off by police.
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 6.46pm on Sunday, August 9, to reports of a person in the water in Balloch.
“Operations Control mobilised two appliances and two water rescue units to the scene at Balloch Bridge.
“Firefighters currently remain on the scene working to assist in the search for the missing person.”
The River Leven which is a tributary of Loch Lomond is reputed to be the second fastest flowing river in Scotland after the Tay.
The speed of the river flow depends on whether or not the Scotland Water barrage south of Balloch at Jamestown has been raised.
Warm summer days frequently bring tragedy with them, and the Leven, between the Balloch bridges and the Loch is a notorious place for drownings.
The girl who died may have been on a final day out before getting ready to return to school this week. She was identified locally as Ava Gray.
Local families are lining up on Facebook to offer their condolences after the Rev Ian Miller, of Lomond Parish Church in Balloch, posted this: “Tragedy and heartbreak are never that far away from us.
“This time yesterday two local families were doing normal things, perhaps parents grateful that their children would be back in school before the week was out then so cruelly their world changes….. in a matter of moments.
“I am sure the whole community grieves so deeply for the parents of little Ava who was snatched from them yesterday.
“At times like this if we could do anything to wrap them in our arms and restore their treasure to them …. we would.”
Bottom right, the River Leven at Balloch Bridge where Ava slipped and lost her young life.