Friends and colleagues are planning a swimming fundraiser in memory of West Midlands firefighter Iain Hughes, who tragically died last year.

Iain lost his life when he got into difficulty while swimming the English Channel in aid of us and two other charities, The British Heart Foundation and the Midland Air Ambulance Charity.

His close friends have now planned a fundraiser as a tribute to him and his passion for swimming, while supporting the same three charities – all of which were close to his heart.

The group of 48 will take part in a 36-hour swim relay on 7 and 8 March this year, which will see each of them take on just over a mile each – swimming continuously in relay for 45 minutes each.

Iain Hughes worked for West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service, based at Wednesbury Technical Rescue Unit.

All 48 volunteers will be wearing 70s-style swimwear from Budgy Smuggler, the manufacturer of Iain’s favourite swimming trunks, which has kindly donated 20 pairs and offered a huge discount on any extras, so each volunteer can match.

Jim McParland, who was a close friend of Iain’s throughout their 20-year career together, has helped to organise the event. He describes Iain as a “much loved, respected and truly inspirational member of our fire service family”. They both worked for West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service, based at Wednesbury Technical Rescue Unit, and he saw first-hand how passionate Iain was about swimming and raising funds for charity.

“I’ve known Iain for 20 years, since we started really,” says Jim. “We worked together that whole time, and we trained at the same gym – David Lloyds Leisure Centre in Brierley Hill, where the swim relay will take place.

Iain Hughes lost his life in 2023 while swimming the English Channel in aid of The Fire Fighters Charity and two other charities.

“This event is about raising money for the three charities, but we want to carry on his legacy as well. We’ll all be doing it in Iain’s favourite budgie smugglers and equivalent swimming costumes – all in the 70s style he loved.

“Iain was someone who was really giving, he’d help anyone, especially with swimming. If you ever asked him for advice, you’d get a full training plan! We want to inspire as many people as possible to get into swimming in his memory.

“We’re going to have a social do on the Friday when it finishes, where we’ll all get together and celebrate him. It’s a good opportunity to share memories. Hopefully this will carry on from there, I’d like to make this an annual thing.”

Lisa Courtney, Community Fundraiser at The Fire Fighters Charity, says: “This event is a really moving tribute to Iain and his passion for supporting charities close to his heart – and we’re incredibly grateful that he chose us as one of those charities.

“On behalf of everyone at The Fire Fighters Charity, I want to send my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in the event, and I wish you the best of luck on the day.”

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