A charity swimmer died while fulfilling her childhood dream of crossing the English Channel, it was revealed today.
Tragic Susan Taylor, 34, gave up her job as a chartered accountant in February to train full-time for the gruelling challenge – a lifelong goal since she was just FIVE.
The swimming fanatic – nicknamed ‘Nemo’ by pals after the Pixar movie character – set off on the 21-mile swim in the early hours of Sunday morning at around 1am.
But disaster struck when she was just a mile from the coast of France when she became ill on her way into Wissant Bay, near Cap Gris-Nez, and had to be airlifted to hospital by a French navy helicopter.
Despite efforts to revive her, Susan was pronounced dead at 7pm on Sunday evening near Boulogne-sur-Mer.
Husband Stephen, 43, and brother Dave, 40, were part of a team on a support boat following Sarah’s progress and posting Facebook updates for friends and family.
One of her final pictures showed her in a swimming costume, giving a thumbs-up to the camera shortly before departing Dover.
Other shots showed her in the water with cross-channel ferries visible in the background.
Friends who had been monitoring Susan’s swim using a GPS tracker app first became concerned when they noticed the marker showing her progress stop for several minutes before suddenly speeding up in a different direction.
One friend joked that she may have seen a jellyfish – one of her biggest fears – and frantically tried to get away.
But pals eventually realised something was terribly wrong when they spotted Susan was travelling at the speed of a boat.
Steve Tempest first noticed the irregular movement and posted a concerned message on Facebook.
He wrote: “The track has had a blip I hope.”
Ten minutes later, he wrote: “Now I am concerned. Two points showing travel as fast as a boat…. Oh Susan I do hope everything is ok…”
After the boat reached land other friends were desperately seeking infomation on what had happened.
Maverick Marc Richardson wrote: “What’s going on no news and tracker doesn’t look good.”
Her brother Dave broke the news of Susan’s death to her followers.
He wrote: “Whilst attempting to swim the English Channel yesterday my sister, Susan collapsed suddenly in the water.
“She was immediately recovered from the water and treated on the support boat.
“She was then air lifted by helicopter to a hospital in Boulonge. Susan tragically passed away.
“Thank you for your messages of support.
“Please respect the families (sic) privacy whilst they come to terms with what has happened.
“If you would like to leave a sign of respect please feel free to donate to her fund raising page.”
Susan’s parents today paid tribute to their fundraising daughter – describing her as “the best”.
Arthur and Joyce Wright, both 68, who live just a few streets away from Susan in Barwell, Leics., said they still had no idea what caused her death.
Joyce said: “There were so many people following her on Facebook and everyone is asking what has happened.
“She did so well and everyone just wanted to hear that she had finished.
“We were very proud of her in everything she did.
“This was another one of her challenges and it is devastating what has happened.”
Mr Wright added: “She was the best.
“She tried her hardest in everything she did and was always fundraising.
“We do not know exactly what happened. We are still waiting to hear from the authorities in France.”
Susan’s former boss David Kitto, 63, also paid tribute to her.
He said: “Susan was a lovely girl.
“She was quite beautiful, she used to swim and train at the local leisure centre, she would often attract the attention of all the guys.
“She was a brilliant strong swimmer and would fly up and down the pool like nobody’s business.
“Nobody would ever begin to imagine that this sort of thing would happen.
“We are all utterly shocked, utterly saddened, they were such a lovely couple and have only been married for around six years.
“They were a young couple in the prime of their lives, I am absolutely gutted.
“She was raising money for Rainbow’s a local hospice and Diabetes UK, both great charities.
“She had been training for so long and gave up her job for this, it is a true tragedy.”
A French police spokesman said Sarah had departed the UK covered in goose fat to protect her from the elements during the 15-hour swim – and the water temperature had been 15 degrees.
He added: “She was well-supported.”
Neighbours of Susan, from Barwell, Leics., paid tribute to Susan yesterday, and said she had spent two years preparing for the challenge.
Anne Fussell, 60, said: “She was a vibrant woman.
“She was full of strength and character and had a sense of purpose.
“She was a person that had quite an unusual determination and had many goals in her life.
“To do the channel swim was one of her goals on her list and she spent the last two years getting herself prepared for it mentally and physically to be able to do it.
“She swam locally and in open water, from the Lake District down to Dover and she had already successfully completed a relay swim of the channel.
“Her husband and her brother were accompanying her in France.
“They have lived her for around 15 years, they didn’t have any children.
“She was a popular woman, it is just such a shock what has happened and has hit the community.”
There was no answer at Susan’s £85,000 home yesterday.
Just a month before her death Susan told her local paper she had dreamt of swimming the Channel since doing a charity swim as a child.
She told the paper: “As a child, I did a sponsored five-mile swim for charity and the seed of the idea of swimming the English Channel was probably sown then.
“I’m not underestimating the enormity of the task ahead of me.”
Kind-hearted Susan had been swimming to raise money for a local children’s hospice and Diabetes UK, even paid the #8,000 cost of the support boat which followed her out of her own pocket.
As news of her death broke, dozens of supporters flocked to a fundraising page Susan set up to make tribute donations.
By 12pm yesterday the total donations had risen to £4,500.
Geoff Ellis, chief executive at Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, paid tribute to Susan, saying she was a “wonderful woman who would do anything for anybody.”
He added: “She has been a much loved ambassador at Rainbows for over two years, helping out at events and tirelessly fundraising for us.
“She was more than an ambassador; she was part of the Rainbows family.
“Susan was totally dedicated to Rainbows, even taking time off from her career to devote more efforts to her fundraising.
“She was really looking forward to taking part in her createaripple.co.uk challenge and we are all so proud of what she achieved.
“All of the children, young people, families, staff and volunteers at Rainbows are devastated and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family. She will be sadly missed.”