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26 October 2012, 06:00
The funeral's taking place today of the Suffolk firefighter who died whilst taking part in a training exercise at an olympic site.
Firefighter Alan Soards joined Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service in April 2001.
After completing his initial training, he was posted to white watch at Lowestoft Fire Station. Alan then transferred to green watch before returning to white watch on 11 October 2011.
In September 2012, Alan also became an on-call firefighter at Lowestoft North Fire Station, close to where he lived.
Throughout his 11 years and 5 months with our fire service, Alan epitomised everything that the public expects, and that his colleagues value, in a firefighter. He was an experienced, expert and highly-committed firefighter. He was also considered to be a close friend by many who worked with him.
Alan was a member of Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service’s maritime incident response group, responding to and dealing with fires and emergencies off the UK shores. Alan was a member of the Lowestoft South Fire Station road traffic collision extrication team, representing the service at the last two national competitions in London and Lincolnshire.
Alan worked with great enthusiasm and pride in local schools and colleges, teaching young people about the dangers of fire and road traffic collisions.
Alan’s efforts were recognised less than a month before he lost his life when both the maritime incident response group and Lowestoft South Fire Station received ‘excellence’ awards at the Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service awards ceremony.
Alan had previously been a much-valued member of the RNLI lifeboat crew at Gorleston. He brought this experience and professionalism into Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service where he was a valued and respected member of the service’s swift water rescue team, playing a vital public safety role across Suffolk.
On 2 October 2012, Alan, together with his firefighter colleagues from white watch at Lowestoft South Fire Station, was taking part in swift water rescue training at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Hertfordshire.
Shortly before midday, about thirty minutes into routine swimming exercises, Alan was taken ill whilst in the water. He was immediately rescued by his firefighter colleagues who, along with medical professionals, worked tirelessly to save his life. Tragically these efforts were in vain and we lost Alan at 12:45 that day.
We gather here today to pay tribute to Alan and to celebrate his life. As a member of the fire and rescue service, Alan was part of a team who, as a matter of course and routine, face risks protecting the public.
Alan’s family, his friends and all of Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service have been devastated by the tragic and untimely loss of a son, brother, friend and firefighter colleague. Alan gave his life in public service, his sacrifice will forever mark him out as being exceptional and he will never be forgotten.
Alan was 38 years old when he died. He lived in Oulton with his South African Mastiff, Tyson.