Sunday 18 March 2018

Donations to tragic swimmer’s charity soar as coach pays tribute

Susan Taylor
Susan Taylor

The coach of a woman who died while attempting to swim the English Channel paid tribute to her today as donations to her chosen charities reached £60,000.

Susan Taylor, 34, collapsed just one mile from the French coast as she swam under the guidance of the Channel Swimming Association, which officially authorises attempts, on Sunday.

She was pulled from the water and on to a support boat by her brother David, a paramedic, who battled to save her life before she was taken to hospital in nearby Boulogne-sur-Mer, where she was later pronounced dead.

Her husband Stephen had also been on board and helped with chest compressions, swimming coach Paul Farrier said.

Mr Farrier, who had known Mrs Taylor since she was a child, praised her enthusiasm and said she always had a smile on her face.

In a press conference, part of which was broadcast by ITV News, he said: "As I watched her on Sunday morning as she set off on her journey, I saw what I knew back 30 years ago. I was going to help her achieve her amazing goal that she had set out on two years ago.

"Her commitment to her training meant that she had put on hold her career as an accountant so that she could give, because this was what Susan was really about.

"She was a natural giver. So when Susan approached me two years ago and asked me if I would be so kind as to help her on her journey - she told me that she was swimming for charity, the Rainbows Hospice charity based in Loughborough, my home town. Having taught children with severe learning difficulties myself for a short time, the answer was a no-brainer.

"She then added Diabetes UK - again as a Type 2 diabetic myself, no brainer. On top of this, she endlessly worked as an ambassador for Rainbows Hospice charity."

As of this evening, donations to the two charities had soared to a total of £61,178 - with £52,613.67 going to the hospices charity and £8,564.33 to Diabetes UK.

Comedian David Walliams - who swam the Channel in 2006 - is believed to be one of the thousands who have contributed. A donation of £1,000 was made under the name of the Little Britain star with the message: "Sending all my love to Susan's family and friends."

Walliams tweeted later: "Despite the shock & sadness, it's good to see heroic Susan Taylor's charity total rising. Please give what you can..."

The star also tweeted a link to the page, writing: "Susan Taylor's channel swim attempt very sadly ended in tragedy. This is her charity page if you want to donate..."

Mrs Taylor had reportedly written in a blog post her ambition to follow in Walliams' footsteps by swimming the Channel.

"I've had an ambition to follow in comedian David Walliams's strokes and swim the Channel since I was a child," she wrote.

Speaking from the family home in Barwell, Leicestershire, Arthur Wright, Mrs Taylor's father, said of his daughter: "I'm devastated. I've lost the best person in the world. She was just wonderful."

A message posted by Mrs Taylor's brother on her Facebook page said: "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 airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Boulogne.

"Susan tragically passed away. Thank you for your messages of support. Please respect the family's privacy whilst they come to terms with what has happened.

"If you would like to leave a sign of respect please feel free to donate to her fundraising page."

Supporters who were following Mrs Taylor's progress through a tracker link on her Facebook page began to leave concerned messages when the updates stopped and the boat appeared to travel off course.

Mrs Taylor had given up her full-time job to carry out charitable work and was working part-time as an accountant, her father said. She had also done wing-walking and a parachute jump, and was a qualified rally driver.

Mr Wright said he had been told the accident happened during the last leg of the swim, which Mrs Taylor had spent 18 months training for.

Mrs Taylor was no stranger to the Channel having swum it last year as part of a relay team, according to the Leicester Mercury. Before her solo attempt she told the newspaper that her training had been delayed a little by a shoulder injury and that she had put herself "through hell" training over the last year.

A statement issued by Mrs Taylor's family through the Foreign Office thanked the public for their support, adding: "Susan was an experienced long-distance swimmer and had prepared tirelessly for the challenge.

"Susan's family are grateful for all the messages of support they have received but would now ask for privacy to come to terms with this tragic event.

"Susan took great pride in her fund raising for some amazing charities and we would like her sacrifice to be recognised in the only way she would have wanted".

The charities which Mrs Taylor was raising money for also paid tribute to her.

Geoff Ellis, chief executive at Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, said: "Susan was a wonderful woman who would do anything for anybody. She has been a much loved ambassador at Rainbows for over two years, helping out at events and tirelessly fund raising for us. She was more than an ambassador; she was part of the Rainbows family."

Barbara Young, chief executive at Diabetes UK, said the charity was "extremely sad" to hear of Mrs Taylor's death and offered condolences and support to her family.

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