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Search for swimming firefighter called off after two days

The search for Iain Hughes, a firefighter who was swimming across English Channel for charity, has been called off after two days.

The Gris-Nez operational surveillance and rescue centre (CROSS) was informed a swimmer had disappeared on Tuesday, off the Cap Gris-Nez.

The Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CS&PF), which monitors swimmers in the channel, announced with “deep regret” Mr Hughes could not be found after a sea search.

Mr Hughes has been aiming to raise £21,000 for the British Heart Foundation, Midlands Air Ambulance and Fire Fighters’ Charity.

He started the solo challenge with a support boat on Tuesday from Dover before disappearing.

Mr Hughes, 42, remains missing despite a search involving military helicopters and navy and police boats.

His disappearance was “unspeakably sad”, West Midlands Fire Service said.

Based at Wednesbury fire station, Mr Hughes had posted on social media two weeks ago that the swim had been delayed because of bad weather.

In a statement, the fire service said: “We are heartbroken to confirm that one of our crew managers, Iain Hughes, is missing after his inspiring attempt to swim the English Channel for charity.”

French authorities have confirmed the search has now ended, it said, adding: “In spite of search efforts involving French and Belgian military helicopters, plus navy and police patrol boats, Iain’s whereabouts remain unknown.”

Mr Hughes, a married father-of-two who has been with the fire service since the age of 19, currently works in its technical rescue unit.

Chief Fire Officer Wayne Brown, described Mr Hughes as a “highly-respected and much-loved colleague and friend to many.”

“We are giving Iain’s family all the support we can at this distressing time,” he said.

The Channel crossing is 21 miles (34km) and can take swimmers anywhere between seven and 27 hours to complete.

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