Eye-witnesses have described how mother-of-three Leanne Gordon drown in front of her eldest son while trying to help a friend’s daughter who was in distress in the water.
Personal trainer Leanne visited Bedford river with sons Lorenza, nine, Lascelle, five and Evan, three, along with friends and their children as summer temperatures soared.
Her former partner Antonino Marsala, father of Lorenza, said the youngster had been left shocked by the incident at the River Great Ouse at Queens Park, Bedford.
Antonino, 44, who split with Leanna seven years ago, said: “My nine year old son is full of cuts and scratches from going through the bushes to get help.
“He ran down the road screaming ‘mum needs help, she’s drowning’. That’s when people were alerted.
“He got to someone’s house and called his uncle who told me. As soon as I found out I rushed down there.
“When I got there I saw two little boys with a towel covering them. I immediately checked my son was ok.
“He’s upset but we’re an Italian family and he’s got lots of support around him.”
Mr Marsala, a mechanic, arrived around 25 minutes after Leanne was swept away, he said: “They were swimming in an at the back of Queens’ Park.
“They had done the same thing two days before because the weather was so nice, she was with a couple of other people and their kids I think.
“One of the friend’s kids was in distress so she jumped in and got into a bit of bother and the current washed her away.”
He added: “She was a really bubbly person, she was well known for being outgoing. It is such a shock and a real tragedy.”
Mr Marsala said that Leanne could swim, but that she suffered from panic attacks which may have prevented her from saving herself.
A resident living close to the scene of the tragedy told how his wife had heard a woman scream ‘I can’t swim.’
Joe Vacchio and his wife Angela, whose house backs onto the river where the incident happened, said: “There were a group of children playing in the river.
“We heard some frantic noises, and my wife heard someone scream ‘I can’t swim’ and shortly after the emergency services arrived.
“The police camped behind our house all night, I asked them earlier what had happened, but all they said was that the divers were having a briefing today.
“The body wasn’t recovered behind our house - it was taken down stream by the current.”
Bedfordshire Police Chief Inspector, Nick Lyall, said: “At about 10.30am the body of that woman was located and tragically she’s passed away, we believe having drowned in the river having got into distress last night.
“Three children, they are all between three and 10 years of age, so young children that have lost a mother at the start of the school holidays. It is a tragic time for the family.”