The family of former dock worker Paul Fehrenback, who was pulled from the sea at Swanpool on Sunday, say he died after doing what he loved.

Paul, who swam at least twice a day at Swanpool in all weather, got into trouble while taking his afternoon swim on Sunday. A woman who had never been in the sea before went to his aid and rescued him from the water and then gave basic life support until an off-duty nurse and a member of the Cornwall Search and Rescue Team came to help.

He was taken to hospital in Truro by helicopter where he remained in a critical condition until he passed away just after 10am on Monday.

"He fought all night," said Diane, his wife of 56 years, "but then he just took his last breath and was gone."

Paul, who would have been 81 on October 21, had swum every day for the last 40 years or so - starting off at the docks and lifeboat station before moving on to making Swanpool Beach his regular haunt.

It seemed almost inevitable that he would end his days around the water. "It was the only way I could ever see him dying - in the sea," said Diane. "We always said that, but I thought I would have gone before him because of my COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)."

Diane, along with daughter Paula, had been on the way to Swanpool on Sunday after seeing the helicopter to take photos for her grandson, little realising what was happening. "We never for one minute thought it was dad," she said, "we just wanted a photo.

"We could get down there because the traffic was backed up, but then a policewoman came and took my arm and said that it was my husband. I couldn't believe it.

"He had died, but they brought him back, at least that's what we were told. We didn't know whether we were coming or going, but he kept fighting all night. It was an awful night. It is thought he had a heart attack."

Paul leaves three children, Paula, Andrew and Debbie, along with seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren with a seventh due next month. He is also survived by his older brother, Michael, 83, who lives in Trevethan Rise.

He had started at his working life at Falmouth Docks when he was 15 before embarking on two years National Service after which he returned to the docks until he was made redundant. A spell working at Wheal Jane mine followed until he went back to the docks again where he stayed until he retired at the age of 65.

After "retiring" he took up a job supervising the bouncy castle at Swanpool Beach for about 13 years. "He loved the kids and some came back year after year," said Diane, who worked as a waitress at the Green Lawns Hotel for 32 years.

For all of that, though, Paul was probably best know for his swimming - something he continued with even after being diagnosed with dementia in March. "We couldn't have stopped him if we wanted to," said Diane. "He loved his swimming."

Diane and her family are keen to trace the woman who went to Paul’s rescue on Sunday with little thought of her own safety. “We would like to find out who she is so we can personally thank her,” said Diane. “All we know is that she had a dog with her.” Many tributes have been paid to Paul on Facebook. Malcolm Gaylard said: “Worked with Paul for many years. A man full of integrity, trustworthy with a very soft heart. Was admired greatly by many whom he helped secure employment for. Always there if you needed someone to confide in. “A proud decent man who had a great outlook on life. He was the ‘Daddy’ of Falmouth Docks plumbing department. Rest In Peace Paul. Thank you for your help and guidance through the years.” AJ Salisbury added: “Used to work at the Three Mackerel and Paul would always come up after his morning swim for a cuppa and a chat. A nice and charming man who never failed to brighten our day. “Sad to hear of his passing. Thoughts are with his friends and family."