TRIBUTES have been paid to a ‘larger than life’ firefighter who was found dead in woodland.
Martin Coles’ body was discovered off a bridlepath close to his home in Wickham by a member of the public on Tuesday morning.
Mr Coles, known as Marty to his friends, had been the station manager for Wickham Fire station, where he was a member of the retained crew for 27 years.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s deputy chief officer, Dave Curry, said: ‘He was a well known and very popular member of staff and his death is a huge loss to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and the community he served.
‘Our thoughts are with Marty’s family and his colleagues at both Wickham and Botley fire stations. Hampshire Fire and Rescue has been offering support to his family as well as colleagues.’
Wickham crew manager, Nigel Blackman added: ‘He was a big-hearted, very kind and larger than life character who was also a great leader for us and will be very sorely missed.’
Mark Woods, watch manager for Botley Fire Station, where Mr Coles had also been a retained crewman since 2005, added: ‘He was just a really nice man, an asset to the fire service, very well known within the Botley village and community and will be greatly missed by all.’
The 54-year-old was also a governor for the village’s primary school and vice-chairman of the local community association.
And the father-of-three served as a member of Wickham Parish Council for several years.
Council chairwoman Cllr Angela Clear worked with him and added: ‘He was a lovely man and an excellent colleague.
‘He was a well-known and popular pillar of the community.
‘You would often see him out in The Square fundraising for all sorts of charities, washing people’s cars down.
‘This is extremely sad news, it’s such a loss.
‘I just remember him as a great chap and he will be missed a great deal.’
In 2004 he was given the fire brigade long service and good conduct medal for his 20 years in the role.
At the time he spoke of his pride and how he felt honoured to be able to serve the community.
Hampshire police spokesman Neil Miller said: ‘Whilst out walking along the bridlepath off Station Close in Wickham a member of the public came across the body of a 54-year-old male hanged at a footbridge at about 7.30am on Tuesday.’
He confirmed that the death is not being treated as suspicious.
An inquest has been opened and a full hearing will be held at a later date.
Mr Coles’ family were too upset to speak at this time.