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Father tried to rescue two-year-old who fell into Leicester river, say police

A father jumped into a river to try to rescue his two-year-old son who fell from a footbridge in Leicester, police have said as a search operation entered its third day.

The boy, from a local family, fell into the murky and cold River Soar at just after 5pm on Sunday in the Aylestone Meadows nature reserve, close to Marsden Lane.

A major search involving specialist divers, drones, helicopters and four police forces is continuing.

Leicestershire Police confirmed that the boy fell from a footbridge and his father jumped into the river in an effort to retrieve him. The Telegraph understands that the bridge is about 15ft tall.

Assistant Chief Constable Michaela Kerr said: “The child was with family members at the time that he went into the water and we do know that one person went into the River Soar in an attempt to try and get the child, but sadly at this moment we still haven’t been able to find the child.

“At the time the boy fell into the water, he had been with his family standing on a bridge.”

The father was taken to hospital as a precaution, but has since been discharged. Other family members, including the boy’s mother, are understood to have visited the police cordon next to a flooded towpath on Monday and spoken to officers.

Police are understood to still be treating the search as a rescue rather than a recovery operation, as the Met Police, Nottinghamshire Police, Lincolnshire Police and fire services are drafted in to help.

Assistant Chief Constable Kerr said: “I’m confident that we will find him. We’re doing everything we possibly can, and for the family our commitment is absolutely to make sure that we get that little boy home.”

She said she was “very reassured and very confident” that the parameters of the search were correct, but that it was incredibly difficult because of high rainfall increasing water levels.

The assistant chief constable appealed for witnesses, saying: “Anybody that has any information regarding when the little boy went into the river at 5pm on Sunday, or indeed anybody that has spoken to any of my officers today whilst at the scene cordons, we would be very grateful it you can get back in contact with Leicestershire Police.”

But she warned locals trying to help by launching their own searches that the area was too “dangerous” for them to do so.

Police search flooded fields near the River Soar in Aylestone Meadows
Police search flooded fields near the River Soar in Aylestone Meadows - Jacob King/PA

The area, in the Braunstone suburb of Leicester, is popular with visitors and also features a canal. A floodplain, which was largely submerged on Sunday, stretches two miles from the River Soar and has dozens of points of unrestricted entry.

The case has caused shock in the local community.  A 65-year-old nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, said she heard shouting and a man entering the water whilst she was standing on a bridge over the River Soar.

“I didn’t see the child fall in, but I heard shouting and at that point I didn’t know what was going on,” she told the BBC. “I was running to tell the man to get out the water because it was an absolute torrent last night.

“I saw the man disappear under the arch. Then I knew there was a child in the water and I tried to look myself.”

Police officers search the River Soar in Leicester on Monday after the boy fell into the water
Police officers search the river on Monday - Jacob King/PA

Sergeant Chris Haines, leading the search for Leicestershire Police, said officers had “searched all the waterways and fields” surrounding where the boy was last seen and were now “concentrating downriver from where the boy fell into the water”.

He added: “Those searches will continue over the next couple of days.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact 999 with information quoting incident 476:180224.