‘He was our world’ - Family tributes to West Midlands firefighter charity swimmer Iain Hughes

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West Midlands Fire Service has confirmed that Iain Hughes body has been found after he died while swimming the English Channel for charity

A firefighter who went missing during a charity swim in the English Channel has been confirmed dead after his body was found near Belgium.

Iain Hughes, 42, set out on his fundraising solo challenge from Dover along with a support boat before he vanished on June 21. A massive search mission involving Navy, military helicopter and police boats was called off after they failed to locate the remains of the dad-of-two.

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West Midlands Fire Service confirmed on Friday (July 28) that Iain’s body had since been recovered from waters near Belgium and returned to Britain.

In a statement, the family of Iain, of Dudley, said they had been left "shattered" by the "unbearable" news. They said: “Our lives were shattered when Iain went missing. He was our world. The news that his body had been found was unbearable. It still is. We miss him more than words can ever say.

“We are proud of Iain for so many reasons. He put his heart and soul into training for the swim, but that was Iain - determined to help and support others. It is lovely to see how much money has been raised for his three charities, but also heartbreaking that he will never know the total.

"Thank you to everyone who has donated and who are still raising money. We also want to send our thanks and love to everyone who has been there for us these past few weeks. The photo we are releasing sums up the Iain we loved. We will not be giving media interviews and ask that our privacy be respected. Thank you.”

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Iain was a crew manager based at Wednesbury fire station and had trained for nearly two years for the feat. He had been doing the challenge to try and raise £21,000 for the British Heart Foundation, Midlands Air Ambulance and the Fire Fighters’ Charity. His fundraising page has since been inundated with more than £56,000 in donations.

West Midlands firefighter Iain Hughes whose body has been recovered after he went missing on a cross channel swimWest Midlands firefighter Iain Hughes whose body has been recovered after he went missing on a cross channel swim
West Midlands firefighter Iain Hughes whose body has been recovered after he went missing on a cross channel swim | Courtesy Hughes family / SWNS

A West Midlands Fire Service spokesperson said: "With immense sadness, we have learned that the body of a swimmer found in waters off Belgium is that of Iain Hughes, our missing crew manager.

“Belgian authorities informed their UK counterparts of the discovery. The body has now been returned to the UK and, regrettably, formally identified to be that of Iain. Iain’s family have been informed. We hold them in our thoughts and prayers, and are continuing to give them all possible support."

Wayne Brown, Chief Fire Officer, added: “This is devastating news. Iain’s family are foremost in our thoughts at this distressing time, and we are giving them all possible support. I know that many people have been affected by Iain’s disappearance. We, in turn, have been touched by the hundreds of kind messages we have received, and the overwhelming response to Iain’s fundraising page. Thank you.”

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As a mark of respect to Iain, flags at West Midlands Fire Service sites will fly at half-mast until sunset on Friday (July 29). A book of condolence has also been opened on the fire service’s website you can access it here: Book of Condolence for Iain Hughes

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