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Susan Taylor dies during English Channel charity swim

image captionSusan Taylor "suddenly collapsed" in the water on Sunday

A woman has died while trying to swim across the English Channel for charity.

Susan Taylor, 34, from Barwell, Leicestershire, died in Boulogne on Sunday after she "suddenly collapsed" on the final part of the challenge.

She was doing the 21-mile (34km) endurance test to raise money for Rainbows Hospice in Loughborough and Diabetes UK.

Her father, Arthur Wright, said he had lost "the best person in the whole world".

In a statement released through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the family confirmed an earlier report Ms Taylor had "suddenly collapsed" as she approached the French coast.

Mr Wright revealed his paramedic son David, Ms Taylor's brother, was on the boat at the time of the swim and battled to save her life.

"David was with her and he was the paramedic, he tried to help. He pulled her on to the boat."

'Absolute tragedy'

Mr Wright said his daughter was then airlifted to hospital, where she died.

In the statement, the family said: "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."

It said people could continue to donate money to the two charities in her memory.

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

The comedian and Britain's Got Talent judge David Walliams is believed to have donated £1,000 to Ms Taylor's fundraising page.

A donation of that amount was made under the name of the Little Britain star, who swam the Channel in 2006, with the message "Sending all my love to Susan's family and friends".

He 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".

The total raised currently stands at more than £19,600.

Ms Taylor was swimming under the guidance of the Channel Swimming Association - which officially authorises crossing attempts - when she got into difficulty near the French coast at about 17:30 local time.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed it was providing her family with consular assistance.

Ms Taylor's neighbour David Kitto said: "I'm just gobsmacked. She was a truly lovely girl and this is an absolute tragedy.

"She was a confident person anyway. 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."

Childhood ambition

She had raised more than £3,000 in sponsorship for the 21-mile swim across the English Channel, which is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Earlier this year Ms Taylor spoke to BBC Radio Leicester about her determination to complete the challenge.

She gave up her full time job as a chartered accountant to dedicate more time to training and often swam for up to six hours a day.

The idea of first swimming the Channel came to her as a child.

She said: "A lady said to me, when I was going to a swimming gala, would you swim the Channel when you're older? I can remember looking up to the old lady and saying 'yes I would'.

"For some reason I decided I hadn't achieved that goal so I decided to charter a boat and swim the Channel."

"I'm quite a determined person so when I decided to do it I do what I say I'm going to do," she added.

'Tragic loss'

Rainbows Hospice opened in 1994 and is dedicated to children and young people.

Its chief executive Geoff Ellis 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 fundraising for us.

"She was more than an ambassador; she was part of the Rainbows family."

Irish swimmer Paraic Casey, 45, died while attempting to swim the Channel in July 2012.

A short statement from the Channel Swimming Association described Mrs Taylor's death as "a tragic loss under valiant circumstances" but said they had been asked by the family not to comment further.

Kevin Murphy, secretary of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, which also authorises and supports attempts, said: "It's an extreme sport. We know it's an extreme sport but its safety record is second to none.

"In nearly 150 years there have been only half a dozen fatalities."