Update: Tributes paid to Suffolk firefighter Alan Soards who died while on training exercise at Olympic venue Lee Valley White Water Centre

AN INVESTIGATION is today under way after a Suffolk firefighter died while on a training exercise.

Alan Soards died during the water training course at Lea Valley White Water Centre yesterday, a Suffolk County Council spokeswoman confirmed.

Three ambulances and two air ambulances were sent to the scene at around 11.30am.

It is understood Mr Soards was taken ill while he was in the water but despite attempts by his firefighter colleagues and paramedics he died at the scene.

The 38-year-old, who had been a firefighter for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service for 11 years, had worked at Lowestoft South station.

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Andy Fry, chief fire officer, said: “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 11 years.

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“My thoughts are with his family and loved ones at this extremely difficult time.

“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.”

East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) spokesman Gary Sanderson said: “We were alerted at 11.32am to reports of a concern for welfare of a man at the Lee Valley White Water Centre on Station Road, Waltham Cross.

“We dispatched three ambulance resources and two air ambulance teams to the scene.”

A spokesman for Lee Valley Regional Park Authority said: “Everyone at Lee Valley White Water Centre is very saddened about the news of firefighter Alan Soards’s death yesterday and our thoughts are with Alan’s family and friends.

“The incident took place during a Fire and Rescue Service training exercise on the Legacy Course – the smaller of the two courses at the centre. These training exercises have taken place regularly since the centre opened and are not related to our public canoeing or rafting activities.”

- Pay your tributes to Mr Soards. Call the newsdesk on 01473 324788.

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