A BRITISH woman who died while trying to swim the English Channel for charity collapsed just a mile from the French coast.
Susan Taylor, 34, was swimming under the guidance of the Channel Swimming Association, which officially authorises attempts, when she got into difficulty at about 5:30pm on Sunday.
She was pulled from the water and on to a support boat by her brother David, a paramedic. He battled to save her before she was taken to hospital in Boulogne-sur-Mer, where she was later pronounced dead.
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.
As news of her death emerged, donations to her Virgin Money Giving fundraising page, where she said she was taking on a challenge “tougher than Everest”, topped £13,000.
Speaking from the family home in Barwell, Leicestershire, Mrs Taylor’s father, Arthur Wright, 68, said: “I’m devastated. I’ve lost the best person in the world. She was just wonderful.”
He said his daughter had given up her full-time job to carry out charitable work and had been working part-time as an accountant.
She had also done wing-walking and a parachute jump, and was a qualified rally driver.
“She was certainly not a boring accountant,” he added.
Mr Wright said he had been told the accident happened during the last leg of the swim, for which Mrs Taylor had spent 18 months training.
“She had swum 30 miles and she got to the last part, and that’s when it happened. That’s as much as I know.”
The family had celebrated Mrs Taylor’s birthday and her brother’s birthday at a restaurant last Thursday, Mr Wright said. 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.
Tributes were also paid by Mrs Taylor’s neighbours in the quiet cul-de-sac where she lived with her electrician husband, Stephen, who was also on the support vessel when the tragedy happened.
David Kitto, 63, said she would swim at various local sites and had not been anxious about the Channel swim.
“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.
He went on: “I’m just gobsmacked. She was a truly lovely girl and this is an absolute tragedy.”
Kevin Murphy, secretary of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, which authorises and supports attempts but was not involved with Sunday’s swim, said he had got to know her at a training camp in Majorca in April when she completed a six-hour cold water swim.
He added: “It is incredibly sad. Everyone’s cut up about it because she was such a lovely, nice lady.”