Brother desperately tried to save swimmer who died in Channel
The father of a woman who died while attempting to swim the English Channel for charity has said he has lost "the best person in the whole world".
Susan Taylor "collapsed suddenly" in one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world as she approached France on Sunday.
The 34-year-old accountant from Barwell, Leics., undertook the challenge to raise money for Diabetes UK and Rainbows, an East Midlands children’s hospice.
Arthur Wright, 68, described his daughter as "just wonderful" and said he was devastated by her death.
The family had celebrated Mrs Taylor's and her brother's birthday at a restaurant last Thursday, he said, and he last saw his daughter on Friday night.
"I saw her to say I hope it goes well and gave her a kiss," he said.
He also told how her brother, David Wright, a 40-year-old paramedic, had been accompanying his sister in a support boat and had tried in vain to save her when she got into difficulty.
Mrs Taylor's husband Stephen, 43, an electrician, was on the support boat as well.
His wife had previously completed several other open water challenges, swimming the length of Coniston Water in the Lake District, swimming at the Olympic rowing venue and completing a relay swim across the English channel in the past year alone.
She predicted that her English Channel solo swim would be “tougher than Everest”, however.
After covering herself in goose fat in preparation for the ordeal, she set off at about 1am but became ill just a mile off the French coast.
French rescue workers were called out to her support boat soon after 5pm.
Her support team had requested a defibrillator by radio, and a French Navy helicopter was used to take her to hospital in Boulogne, where she was declared dead at around 7pm.
As friends and well wishers waited in vain for news of how the swim had gone, they posted increasingly anxious messages on the Facebook page about the challenge that Ms Taylor had set up.
Those following the tracker she had on her were the first to realise something was wrong.
Steve Tempest wrote at around 5pm: “The track has had a blip I hope.”
Shortly afterwards, when Ms Taylor had been pulled from the water, he added: “Now I am concerned. Two points showing travel as fast as a boat....Oh Susan I do hope everything is ok.”
Clare Biddle wrote last night: "Hope all is ok?? Tracker has stopped!!"
Posting on the Facebook page later, David Wright, wrote: "Whilst attempting to swim the English Channel yesterday my sister Susan collapsed suddenly in the water.
"She was immediately recovered from the water and treated on the support boat. She was then air lifted by helicopter to a hospital in Boulogne. Susan tragically passed away."
Neighbours paid tribute to Mrs Taylor as a "very sporty" woman who was well-known for her swimming and charity work.
David Kitto, 63, said she would swim at nearby Hinckley Leisure Centre, Stoney Stanton Lakes and Bosworth Water Park and was not anxious about the Channel swim, which she undertook in very hot weather.
"She was a confident person anyway," he said. "She had a real presence about her. She was not a shrinking violet but nor was she hogging the front pages all the time.
"She was a very good swimmer; you used to see her going up and down in the fast lane at the pool and all the staff there knew her and got to know what she was doing.
"I'm just gobsmacked. She was a truly lovely girl and this is an absolute tragedy."
Mrs Taylor had raised more than £11,000 for her chosen charities by early afternoon today, after donations flooded into her Virgin Money Giving fundrasing page following the news of her death.
On an online blog written in the weeks leading up to her swim, she wrote: "I've had an ambition to follow in comedian David Walliams's strokes and swim the channel since I was a child.
"This is a dream I have cherished since I was a club swimmer, growing up in Barwell.
"As a child, I did a sponsored five mile swim for charity and the seed of the idea of swimming the English Channel was sewn then.
"I'm not underestimating the enormity of the task ahead of me. Besides the gruelling physical challenge, not to mention the cold water, the English Channel is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, with over 600 tankers and 200 ferries crossing it every day.
"However tankers and ferries are the least of my worries, as my biggest fear is coming into contact with jelly fish! I shall overcome this phobia though, in order to raise funds."
British officials had authorised a number of charity swimmers to cross the Channel yesterday.
France does not allow such swims to start from its own side of the water because of the hazards posed by shipping, as well as dangerous currents and changing weather conditions.
Kevin Murphy, secretary of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, said swimming the Channel was an "extreme sport" but had a safety record "second to none."
He described Ms Taylor's death as "incredibly sad", adding: "People in our organisation knew her. She had been our friend on the beach training in Dover and everyone's cut up about it because she was such a lovely, nice lady."