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Body of missing firefighter found after attempted English Channel charity swim

West Midlands Fire Service crew manager Iain Hughes went missing during an attempt to swim the English Channel for charity in June (Alamy/PA)
Lucas Cumiskey, PA

The body of a “much-loved” firefighter who disappeared as he attempted to swim the English Channel has been found.

Iain Hughes, crew manager at Wednesbury fire station, West Midlands, set off from the Kent coast on the morning of June 20 accompanied by a support boat but went missing later that day in French waters.

The disappearance of the 42-year-old father-of-two sparked an extensive search by French and Belgian authorities which was later called off.

Iain Hughes death
Iain Hughes, who went missing attempting to swim the English Channel for charity in June (West Midlands Fire Service/PA)

On Friday, West Midlands Fire Service said the body of a swimmer found in waters off Belgium has been formally identified as Mr Hughes.

In a joint statement releases through the fire service, Mr Hughes’ family said they “miss him more than words can ever say”.

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.”

Mr Hughes had been attempting to raise £21,000 – £1,000 for every mile of his swim – for the British Heart Foundation, The Fire Fighters Charity and the Midlands Air Ambulance.

As of Friday, his fundraiser had far exceeded this target by raising more than £56,000.

Mr Hughes’ family added: “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 is 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.”

West Midlands Fire Service chief fire officer Wayne Brown said it is “devastating news” and that “Iain’s family are foremost in our thoughts at this distressing time”.

He added: “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.”

West Midlands Fire Service said flags at its sites will fly at half-mast until sunset on Friday as a mark of respect to Mr Hughes.