Lifebelts stolen or burned by vandals at a spot on the River Nene where a 15-year-old boy died were not replaced.
Desperate friends tried to reach Daniel McCullagh with a fishing net as he struggled in the river between Woodford and Denford. The Environment Agency chose not to replace the lifebelt after its housing was burned two years ago.
Roy Pitkin, 76, fishing bailiff for Willowbrook Coarse Fisheries, who saw the tragedy unfold, said: “It’s disgusting. It cost a young lad his life.”
He said he saw four people jump 10ft off an old railway bridge together into the river, where a number of teenagers were swimming, at about 3pm on Tuesday.
Two of the jumpers got into difficulties in the fast-flowing waters.
One was pulled clear but Daniel, of Woodford, could not be reached.
Tony Blyth, landlord of the Duke’s Arms, Woodford, who was walking his dogs, jumped in but could not find Daniel.
A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said: “Following a protracted search of the area together with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, East Midlands Ambulance Service and the Environment Agency, the body of a 15-year-old boy was discovered at 6.20pm.
“Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death and will be preparing a report for the coroner.”
Police, the fire service and ambulance service, as well as the Environment Agency, were involved in the search along a stretch of the river between Denford and Woodford.