THE family of a man who died in rough seas off Torquay pier have spoken for the first time to praise the lifeboat crew who tried to save him.
The Torbay lifeboat crew tried to resuscitate dad-of-five Kevin Lewis (pictured), 44, when he was discovered in the water near the Pier Point restaurant just after 8pm on Tuesday, January 29.
They battled 70mph winds and rough seas to rescue him. But despite their best efforts he died in Torbay Hospital later that evening.
His family — former partner Tammi Ross, 41, and children Mason, 14, his twin Kane and their sister Tyree, 15 — have personally thanked the lifeboat crews for their heroic efforts. The family, who live in Leicester, intend to make a donation so the RNLI can continue to help others.
Tammi said: "Mason asked me to call the lifeboat station to personally thank the crew. He was very adamant that he wanted to say thank you.
"They did a brilliant job and we have decided not to buy flowers for the funeral but instead make a donation to the RNLI. Every penny we give means the next person who needs help will be reached quicker."
Mr Lewis' mum, Veronica, 68, from Plainmoor, said the family had been left devastated.
He has three brothers Mark, John and Scott and sister Sarah. Mrs Lewis said: "We simply do not know how to cope. We are devastated. He was happy go lucky, he would always go out of his way to help, he was very loving.
"There was not a bad bone in his body. He had a heart of gold. This has left us heartbroken."
Mrs Lewis also paid tribute to the lifeboat crew and medical staff who tried to save him.
She said: "They fought for him. Thank you."
Mr Lewis was in a relationship and moved to Torquay in the late 1980s. He was living in Plainmoor.
He also has a son, Jack, 19 and daughter Ryanna, seven.
He was unemployed due to ill health.
Tammi said Mr Lewis had settled in recent years and had re-established a relationship with his children in Leicester.
They spent a summer with their father in Torquay and have fond memories.
Tammi said: "He would be the life and soul of the party. He was always making people laugh. That's how everyone remembers him. He always had a smile on his face."
An inquest into the death has been opened by Torbay and South Devon coroner Ian Arrow. Ric Parsons, coroner's officer, told the hearing Mr Lewis had drunk some alcohol in a Torquay pub on the evening he died. He was seen in distress in the sea near Princess Pier by a member of the public who raised the alarm.
The cause of death was drowning and there are no suspicious circumstances. The inquest has been adjourned for a full hearing at a later date.