A firefighter who went missing on a charity swim in the English Channel has been confirmed dead after his body was found in waters near Belgium.
Iain Hughes, from Dudley, started the solo challenge with a support boat from Dover on 20 June before disappearing.
The 42-year-old’s body has now been returned to the UK and formally identified, West Midlands Fire Service said.
In tribute, his family described the news as “unbearable”.
The crew manager, who was based at Wednesbury fire station, had trained for nearly two years for the challenge.
He was close to the stern of the support boat when he went missing in French waters.
In a statement, his family said: “Our lives were shattered when Iain went missing. He was our world. 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, a married father of two, joined the fire service at 19 and launched an online fundraiser to support The Fire Fighters Charity, British Heart Foundation and Midlands Air Ambulance.
It has been inundated with more than £56,000 in donations, far exceeding the £21,000 target, with well-wishers continuing to add to the pot.
As a mark of respect, flags at West Midlands Fire Service sites will fly at half-mast until sunset on Friday.
Wayne Brown, the fire service’s chief fire officer, 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.”
A book of condolence has been opened on West Midlands Fire Service website.