A shocked wife looked on from a boat as her husband suffered a fatal heart attack less than a mile from the shore as he took part in a cross-channel swim from England to France.

Galwayman Paraic Casey died in front of his wife, Riana, just minutes after he fell ill during the final leg of his charity swim with fellow members of a Kinsale club.

The 45-year-old, a resident of Passage West in Cork, had shown no sign of illness or problems before his collapse.

Casey was hauled onto the support boat but suffered a massive heart-attack and died before he reached hospital.

Just before the tragedy, Riana had tweeted: “He IS gonna do this, his pilot is happy with how he’s going. Picking his landing spot as I type!”

The Irish Independent reports that Riana had previously tweeted that she joined her husband in the water for part of the swim.

“He is in great form and I struggled to keep up with him,” she wrote.

Casey got into difficulty less than a mile from the French shoreline and was hauled into the boat by the support crew.

In a tribute to her husband, Riana said: “Paraic was an amazing, healthy, tough, loving husband, friend, brother, uncle, son, nephew and cousin whose recent passion for swimming brought him to great places.

“I would like to thank everyone for their love and support. We ask that our privacy is respected during this difficult time.”

Reports on Monday confirmed that Casey, who worked as a wildlife ranger at Fota Park in Cork, was medically examined and given a clean bill of health before he left for England.

The Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, who authorise all cross-channel swims, confirmed that he was passed fit for the sponsored swim.

Spokesman Kevin Murphy said: “He was just swimming along fine at one moment and the next he stopped swimming and was on his back.”

Members of the Sandycove Club in Kinsale were due to join Paraic in the water for the final leg of his swim.

Club secretary Ned Denison said: “He was a lovely bloke. He loved the water and he was in an environment where lots of other swimmers were pushing the distance and Paraic started to swim further and further and further.

“In Dover, he was fit and healthy and in great shape, with the appropriate amount of confidence and caution. He was an excellent swimmer.”