'Wonderful' grandparents, 82 and 83, found dead are pictured after car swept away in flooded river as family pay tribute
THE family of two "wonderful" grandparents whose bodies were recovered from a car that was swept away in a flooded river have paid tribute to the loving couple.
John Lillistone, 83, and Patricia Lillistone, 82, were in a blue Skoda which entered the River Trent, Notts – swollen by recent heavy rain and flooding – on February 1.
Following a two-week search by police and other emergency services, their bodies were recovered from the submerged vehicle two miles downstream on February 13.
A police investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy is continuing.
The couple's family said they were "devastated" by the news.
In a joint statement released today they said: "John and Patricia were loving, caring parents and grandparents who were always there for family and friends.
"Our family is devastated by the loss of two wonderful people and they will be dearly missed by all. We have many happy memories of our time spent together that we will cherish forever.
"We would like to thank the emergency services and other agencies involved for their tireless effort and support at this very difficult time."
They also appealed to be left to grieve in private following the tragedy.
Specialist officers had been searching the river since the car entered the water at Hoveringham, with witnesses reporting seeing two people inside.
It took almost two weeks for the car to be reached at Hazelford Ferry, Bleasby.
A spokesman for Notts Police said: "The car was located by sonar on the riverbed days later but had not been accessible because of the fast flow of water caused by flooding.
"After a careful assessment of the site a specialist police dive team entered the water at around 10.30am on Saturday and were able to remove the bodies.
"A formal identification has now taken place and Mr and Mrs Lillistone's family have been supported by a family liaison officer.
"Nottinghamshire Police, in partnership with the Environment Agency, had used a sonar technology and an underwater drone to monitor the location of the vehicle, which has also now been removed from the water."
Inspector Tim Ringer, who led the recovery operation, said it had been a "difficult and complex operation" which involved "dozens of people".
He added: "Our thoughts remain with the family of the deceased who have asked for their privacy to be respected at what I know is an immensely difficult time.
"Underwater recoveries of this nature are always very challenging, but our divers' work has been further complicated by the very fast flowing water at the site."
Eyewitness Pauline Bulpitt and her husband had seen the car enter the heavily swollen river.
She said at the time: "It was quite shocking. My husband rushed to get his Wellington boots, hoping the car would come into the bank further up and we might be able to do something to help.
"There was another gentleman running down the field to see if he could do something to help but the car carried on down."
Local councillor Roger Jackson, said: "It's very, very tragic what has happened.
"We don't know what the circumstances are around it, but it's awful for everybody involved. My heart goes out to their family.
"I have been speaking to the local parish council and highways team to see whether we need to do some work to see if we can stop it from happening again.
"It was quite traumatic for those that witnessed it – I understand some residents saw what was happening – but there was absolutely nothing they could do.
"That will play on people's minds."
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