Family tributes as body of missing English Channel swimmer confirmed as firefighter Iain Hughes

The family of Iain Hughes issues this picture of him as they paid tribute to him Credit: Family of Mr Hughes

The family of a Midlands firefighter who went missing during a charity swim of the English Channel says they "miss him more than words can say" following the discovery of his body.

Iain Hughes embarked on the swim last month to raise money for the The Fire Fighters Charity, British Heart Foundation and Midlands Air Ambulance.

The married father-of-two began his attempt on Tuesday, June 20, accompanied by a support boat, after training for two years.

He went missing during the attempt and French and Belgian military helicopters led a search, alongside navy and police patrol boats, but French authorities called off the search last month.

The body of the crew manager, based at Wednesbury fire station, has now been found and confirmed to be Mr Hughes.

In a statement through the fire service, Mr Hughes' family paid tribute to him and expressed their pride for him.

The statement reads: "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.”    

West Midlands Fire Service confirmed the news that the body discovered was that of Mr Hughes on their website.

The statement reads: "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."

Tributes continue to be paid to Mr Hughes following the news of the discovery.

As a mark of respect to Mr Hughes, flags at West Midlands Fire Service sites will fly at half-mast until sunset on Friday, July 28.

Staff have also opened a Book of Condolence on their website which can be viewed by clicking here.

So far more than £50,000 has been raised for the three charities and the link to the site can be found by clicking here.

Wayne Brown, chief fire officer for West Midlands Fire Service, said: “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."