- Anas El-Rafai's body was pulled from the River Tees at Broken Scar, Darlington
- 'Popular' schoolboy saw his sibling in trouble and jumped in to rescue him
- Friends and family paid tribute to the teenager, with one saying he 'died a hero'
A 'fit and healthy' teenage boy whose body was pulled from the River Tees 'died a hero' after diving into the water in a desperate bid to save his struggling brother.
Anas El-Rafai's body was found following a major search operation on Monday evening after the 15-year-old got into the water at Broken Scar in Darlington.
The 'popular' schoolboy saw his younger sibling getting into difficulty and jumped in to try and rescue him, but tragically vanished beneath the surface, The Sun reports.
Friends and family took to social media to pay tribute to the teenager, with one saying he 'died a hero', with floral tributes left at the scene of the tragedy.
In a statement issued through Durham Police, his parents said: 'Anas was a fit and healthy young man. He was very popular at school.
'We are devastated and miss him so much.'
Anas and his family arrived in the UK as refugees three years ago, reports claim, after fleeing the Syrian civil war.
Mohammad El Mgharbel, 17, watched helplessly as his best friend became submerged in the water, but spoke of how he pushed his younger brother, Jamal, and another boy to safety after they were hit by a current.
'After he had done that he went down, I couldn't see him any more and we knew we had to get help and called the police,' he told The Sun.
'What he did was very brave, he saved the other two boys and in doing that his own life was lost. He was my best friend and it's hard to believe what happened.
'Only an hour earlier we had been in town together and took a photograph of him, it's hard to accept.'
A major operation involving police, fire crews, divers and the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team was launched after Anas went missing at around 5pm on Monday.
His body was found at around midnight.
Anas, from Darlington, was formally identified on Tuesday afternoon.
Durham Police said his death is not being treated as suspicious and a file will be prepared for the coroner.
At Broken Scar Weir, which has a picnic site, the river is fast-flowing and there are warning signs telling people not to swim due to the strong currents.
A few minutes' walk downstream, the river is more tranquil as the Tees bends round a farmer's field and there is a pebble beach which is thought to be a popular place for young people to gather.
Anas is one of several Britons to have died in accidents amid sweltering temperatures this month, including a mother who drowned in Norfolk after leaping into the sea to save her son and his friend.
Danielle Chilvers, 37, was pulled lifeless from the water after being caught out by the strong current at Waxham on August 9.
Horrified onlookers tried in vain to resuscitate her before paramedics took over, but she was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
The tragedy came after Ava Gray, 12, died after getting into difficulty in a river in Scotland on the same day.
Her body was pulled from the River Leven in the West Dunbartonshire village of Balloch following a three-hour search.
Police Scotland officers were called to the scene at the foot of Loch Lomond at about 6.45pm, but the search ended with Ava's body being recovered from the water at 9.45pm.
Elsewhere, a man in his 60s was killed amid soaring temperatures on August 10. His body was pulled from the water at Clacton-on-Sea, Essex at around 10.30am and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
In a fourth tragedy, mother Jane Walker died in a crash between a jet ski and a boat on the Menai Strait in North Wales on August 8.