Desperate search for missing dad-of-two Iain Hughes, 42, who disappeared while swimming in English Channel is called OFF | The Sun

THE desperate search for a missing firefighter who disappeared on a solo charity swim across the English Channel has been called off.

Iain Hughes, 42, had set out on his "inspirational" solo challenge from Dover along with a support boat on Tuesday before he vanished.

Emergency services launched a massive search mission to find the dad-of-two – but it has now been called off.

The firefighter, from Dudley, is still missing despite the Navy, military helicopter and police boats hunting to find him.

Iain posted on social media two weeks ago that the swim had been delayed due to bad weather.

West Midlands Fire Service said in a statement: "We are heartbroken to confirm that one of our crew managers, Iain Hughes, is missing after his inspiring attempt to swim the English Channel for charity."

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The statement added: "In spite of search efforts involving French and Belgian military helicopters, plus navy and police patrol boats, Iain's whereabouts remain unknown."

Iain, who has a wife and two children, has been with the fire service since he was 19 and currently works in its technical rescue unit and is based at the Wednesbury Fire Station.

Chief fire officer Wayne Brown, described Iain’s disappearance as "unspeakably sad".

"We are giving Iain's family all the support we can at this distressing time.

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"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and everyone close to Iain.

"He is a highly-respected and much-loved colleague and friend to many."

The Channel crossing is 21 miles and can take swimmers anywhere between seven and 27 hours to complete.

Iain has been hoping to raise £21,000 for the British Heart Foundation, Midlands Air Ambulance and the Fire Fighters' Charity.

The Gris-Nez operational surveillance and rescue centre (CROSS) was notified a swimmer had disappeared on Tuesday, off the Cap Gris-Nez, according to a BBC report.

It deployed helicopters from the French and Belgian navies, as well as a French Navy patrol boat, to join the search.

In an update, the West Midland Fire Service said the search has now been called off.

The RNLI confirmed it had not been called on to assist.

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The Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation (CS&PF), which monitors swimmers in the channel, announced on Wednesday with "deep regret" Mr Hughes could not be found after a sea search.

The Channel Swimming Association said the swimmer was not involved with the organisation and it was therefore unable to comment, but said its "thoughts and prayers" were with the swimmer and his family.

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