TRIBUTES have been paid to a 12-year-old girl who died in the River Leven at the weekend.

The youngster, named by police as Ava Gray, got into difficulty along with two other youths in the water near Balloch Bridge on Sunday evening.

A boy and girl managed to get themselves out of the water but Ava's body was later recovered after a three-hour search.

Ava, from Alexandria, was described as a talented and award-winning street dancer as part of the Full Out Studios in Dumbarton.

The school’s Holly Douglas led tributes on Facebook to her “dancing angel”.

She wrote: “I am heartbroken. Words can’t describe the way I feel Ava. We all love you so so much, you will never be forgotten at Full Out. You will always be part of our team and our family.

“The world is a cruel place, thinking of all the family right now. Ava I love you so, so much.”

Youth workers with the charity Y Sort It also spoke of the “devastating news” as Ava had attended their Bonhill Youth Club.

They said on social media: “We are going to miss your cheeky smile Ava.”

Community leaders offered their condolences and support for Ava’s family and friends, and the emergency services who attended.

Mary Begg, head teacher of Lennox Primary, where Ava was a pupil, said: “The school and our whole community are completely devastated by this tragedy and our thoughts are with Ava’s family and friends.

"Ava always had a smile and kind words to say and was popular with staff and her fellow pupils. She will be greatly missed by us all.”

A West Dunbartonshire Council spokeswoman added: “We would like to extend our sincere sympathy to Ava’s family and friends at this very difficult time. Help and support will be offered to any pupils in our schools who need it following this tragic event.”

Depute Provost Karen Conaghan said: “It’s absolutely heartbreaking news and I would like to offer my sincere sympathies to all of Ava’s family and friends.

“The community in which Ava lived will be devastated by her loss and I’m sure will do all they can to offer support to her family and each other.”

And Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie said: “This will be a devastating time for her family and friends and our thoughts go out to Ava’s family and my thanks to the emergency services.”

Police Scotland said in a statement that its officers were called to a report of the girl being in difficulty in the River Leven, near Balloch Bridge, about 6.45pm on Sunday.

They said: “Emergency services attended and a search and rescue operation was launched. Two of the youths, one boy and one girl, managed to get themselves out of the water.

"Around 9.45pm, the 12-year-old-girl was recovered from the water and pronounced dead at the scene.

"She can be named as Ava Gray from Alexandria. Her family is aware."

Police and firefighters were joined in the search by a coastguard helicopter, the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat crew, and National Park rangers.

Police are not treating the death as suspicious. A full report will be sent to the procurator fiscal.

The community was quick to share their condolences with Ava’s family and friends after the tragedy.

Caroline Fraser wrote: “I genuinely cannot stop thinking about this little girl and her family. I was working in Balloch last night and it was just awful.”

And Terry Slattery wrote: “Thoughts with the child’s family and friends, and all the members of the emergency services involved in the search. Distressing for all involved.”

Shanice Queen said: “She will be loved always.”

National Park chief executive Gordon Watson said: “We are deeply saddened by the outcome of this tragic incident and our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of the young person who sadly lost their life.”