The head of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service says the entire organisation is devastated by the tragic death of firefighter Alan Soards yesterday (Tuesday October 2).
Alan was at a fire service water rescue training course at Lee Valley White Water Centre when he was taken ill whilst in the water. Despite valiant attempts his firefighter colleagues and paramedics were unable to save his life.
Andy Fry, chief fire officer at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Of course, our thoughts at this very sad time are with Alan's family and friends and also with his firefighter colleagues who were with Alan at the time he was taken ill. Everyone has been stunned by these events.
"This is a devastating loss for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service. We are a small fire service where people tend to know each other well and Alan had been a firefighter with us for over 11 years.
"Alan was just 38 years old and was a serving firefighter on white watch at Lowestoft South fire station.
"He was highly regarded by his colleagues - he was an experienced, extremely professional and capable firefighter. He loved his job and was well respected by those who worked with him, many of whom also considered Alan to be a close friend.
"I want to pay tribute to the firefighters from both Suffolk and Norfolk who were with Alan yesterday and to our colleagues in the other emergency services who fought so hard to save his life.
"We have already started working very closely with colleagues from Hertfordshire Police and the Health and Safety Executive to establish full details of what led to Alan's untimely death.
"We are extremely grateful for the many offers of support and assistance received from fire service colleagues across the country and from the Chief Fire Officer's Association.
"In particular, we welcome the offer made to us by colleagues from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and The Fire Brigades Union to provide support during the investigation.