Firefighter’s death probed

INVESTIGATIONS are continuing into the death of a firefighter who died during a training exercise at an Olympic venue.

Alan Soards, 38, of Oulton, near Lowestoft, was taking part in a water rescue course, attended by Norfolk and Suffolk firefighters, at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Hertfordshire on October 2.

Three ambulances and two air ambulance teams were called to the scene after he was taken ill in the water, but attempts by his colleagues and paramedics to resuscitate him failed.

Hertfordshire police have said they are awaiting the results of toxicology tests and, as a result, an inquest had not been formally opened.

The Hertfordshire coroner’s office confirmed an interim death certificate had been issued.

Meanwhile, plans are being made for Mr Soards’ funeral in Gorleston, which is expected to be attended by senior fire officers, colleagues and representatives from the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston RNLI Lifeboat, where he was a member of the crew before becoming a full-time firefighter.

Mr Soards had served with the Suffolk fire service for more than 11 years.

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He served on white watch at Lowestoft South fire station and is said to have had no history of medical problems.

He was at the white water centre with colleagues from Suffolk and Norfolk fire services to practise flood rescues.

Mr Soards grew up in the Great Yarmouth area and went to Cliff Park High School in Gorleston.

He gained a degree in applied physics at Coventry University before he moved back to Gorleston and joined the lifeboat crew –a post he had to give up to be closer to his work as a firefighter.

Paying tribute after the tragic incident, Suffolk’s chief fire officer Andy Fry said: “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.”

“Alan 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.”