Officers from the Northumbria Police Marine Unit were searching for Pamela Jackson, 55, who has not been seen since March 2, when the engine on the vessel cut out as they approached a weir on the River Wear.
The officers tried in vain to cling on to the dinghy, which contained sophisticated search equipment, but were forced to desert the vessel after it became trapped in the cauldron beneath the weir.
Abandoned: Officers were forced to abandon their search for missing Pamela Jackson when their dinghy was swept over the weir, taking sophisticated equipment with it
Missing: Pamela Jackson, 55, was last seen at her home in Chester-le-Street on March 2
The drama unfolded on the river at Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, shortly after 11am yesterday.
Search: Officers from the Northumbria Police Marine Unit were scanning the water on the River Weir using sophisticated equipement
Soaked: Officers tried desperately to cling on to the rigid vessel, but it became trapped in the cauldron beneath the weir
'Our IT department is going to have to look at the laptop computer. Thankfully, no one was hurt,' he added.
The crew had set off earlier from the Chester-le-Street Amateur Rowing Club in their search for Pamela Jackson.
She has not been seen since Saturday, March 2, when she spoke to her son Joe at their home in the Crescent, Chester-le-Street, County Durham.
Police have arrested and charged her partner, 50-year-old Adrian Muir with her murder.
Defeat: The crew said the dinghy's engine cut out as they were scanning the top of the weir yesterday