The family of a man who died in a sea tragedy have paid tribute to a devoted father who “lived life to the full”.
William Symcox, known affectionately to friends as Billy, died when he suffered what is believed to be a heart attack while swimming.
The 36-year-old was seen by witnesses diving off rocks into the sea near Marsden Grotto on Monday.
The alarm was raised when someone noticed he had disappeared and a rescue operation was launched.
Mr Symcox, a former South Tyneside Council worker from Oswald Street, Whiteleas, South Shields, was brought from the sea unconscious by the crew of the Tynemouth RNLI lifeboat before being airlifted by a RAF Sea King helicopter to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, where doctors spent an hour desperately trying to save him. His family say an initial post mortem examination suggests he had suffered heart failure while in the water.
Today, his devastated family paid tribute to the father of three, who idolised his children and lived to live life to the full.
His mother Brenda, 65, said: “William always had a smile on his face. He had a heart of gold and was the kind of person who would give you his last penny.
“He was just lovely natured.”
Sunderland AFC fan Mr Symcox, who is father to Katie, eight and twins Will and Mikey, both five, loved to spend his time outdoors and walking on Cleadon Hills.
After taking part in a walk along the Great Wall of China in aid of the National Institute for the Blind, he had also set his sights on climbing Mount Everest for local charity Cancer Connections.
His father, also called Billy, 65, said: “He was always on the go and, ever since he was a youngster, he loved swimming.
“He was a member of Boldon Swimming Club and both he and his two sisters, Nicola, 39, and Louise, 33, won lots of medals for their swimming.
“Whenever we went on holiday they would always be in the pool, and he would often go over to the Lakes to swim.”
After leaving school, Mr Symcox began working for the council as a gas fitter.
Mrs Symcox said: “We have not yet been able to take it all in.
“He is a going to be a huge miss to us all, especially his children and his nieces Rebecca, nine, Ruth, 10 and nephew Jacob, five. He idolised them all.
“He loved spending time with them and they loved spending time with him.”
A funeral service for Mr Symcox will be held at All Saints Church, in Boldon Lane, South Shields, on Friday at 10.45am.
It will be followed by interment at Harton Cemetery.