RIVER users are being urged to think about what they leave behind after two abandoned canoes sparked a major search operation.

Emergency crews were scrambled to a stretch of the River Tees following reports that canoeists could be in danger this morning (Friday, May 30).

The incident - behind The George Hotel at Piercebridge, near Darlington - proved to be a false alarm, but not before it was attended by all three emergency services, together with support of mountain rescue teams and the air ambulance.

The first canoe was spotted floating upturned near the bridge in the village just before 8.40am and following a search of the area a second one was located.

Officers from the fire and rescue services in from North Yorkshire and County Durham established that no-one was trapped in the canoes or in difficulty in the river.

It is believed that the canoes had been in the river for several days, having been left by canoeists who were unable to recover them from the water.

Both canoes have been removed from the water and placed in safe storage. They can be collected by the owners by contacting Richmond police.

Residents in the village said they were worried a serious incident was taking place when they spotted all the emergency vehicles.

One woman, who asked not to be named, said: “There were a lot of fire engines, ambulance and even the air ambulance. We didn’t know what was going on.

“It was a relief to hear it was a false alarm.”

Inspector Mark Gee, of Richmond Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “I would like to thank colleagues in the emergency services and mountain rescue for their assistance with this incident.

“I would ask that canoeists who are unable to recover their canoes from the water inform the police so we can deal appropriately with reports of abandoned boats.”

Insp Gee added: “Anyone who finds an abandoned boat should leave it where it is and report it to the police immediately so that we can ensure that nobody is in danger, and that they do not put themselves at risk trying to recover the boat.

“If you are the owner of either of the canoes we have recovered please contact Richmond police.”