TRIBUTES have been paid to a former lifeboat crewman, who has died aged 48.

Darren Simper, from Clacton, died on September 11 after he collapsed suddenly at home following a cardiac arrest.

Darren held numerous roles at Clacton lifeboat station, starting as a member of the shore crew, then as tractor mechanic, as well as becoming a member of the lifeboat crew.

He went on to reach the role of helmsman by the time he stood down, and participated in saving 18 lives.

His fellow crew told the Gazette he had a “heart of gold” and that he was “one of the nicest people you would have ever been fortunate enough to meet.”

When Darren first joined the station, he would cook breakfast for the whole crew at a nearby cafe.

He quickly completed his training and rose up through the ranks.

Tim Dye, senior helmsman, said: “I remember getting called to a man stuck in the mud at Fingringhoe in the early hours of the morning,.

“It was a dark night with a moderate sea and the tide was rising fast so it was time critical that Darren, myself and our crew were first to the station so we could launch quickly.

“Dumping all our ballast we sped at top speed to the location where Darren helped the man onto the lifeboat and quickly passed him to the care of waiting emergency services.

“On the way back Darren said ‘I can’t believe you got there so quick I couldn’t even keep up on the GPS system’ and felt it was ‘a white knuckle ride he would not forget in a long time’.”

He added that everyone at the station will miss him.

Darren stood down from the crew in December 2017 after 11 years of service after he started working in Colchester.

Speaking to the Gazette after standing down, Mr Simper said: “I just wanted to give something back to the community and I was working in the town centre so was always on hand.”

The crew said he would often pop by the station whilst walking his dog Marley, and have a chat with his former crewmates.

Long serving crew member Tim Sutton said: “Darren had a big heart, and at the drop of a hat would do anything for anyone.

“One thing that was always clear was how much he loved his family.”

A funeral service will take place on October 21.