The mayor of Cambridge has died suddenly while on a scuba-diving holiday with his wife in South Africa.
Nigel Gawthrope, 61, collapsed on Friday after surfacing from a dive and feeling unwell. The exact cause of his death is unknown.
The city councillor was a popular local figure and had been eight months into his term of office.
Council leader Lewis Herbert said he served “with distinction and panache”.
A keen scuba diver and underwater photographer, Mr Gawthrope was on holiday at a diving resort near Durban with his wife, Jenny.
Mr Gawthrope was a prolific charity fundraiser and worked at the Cambridge University Press, Judge Business School – and latterly as a porter at Clare College, Cambridge.
He was particularly proud of his association with the Cambridge children’s charity, the Red Hen Project.
He was also a long-standing member of the Unite union and acted as a representative and delegate.
Mr Gawthrope was elected to Cambridge City Council serving King’s Hedges ward for Labour in 2012 – and again in 2016 – before taking up the mayoral role in May.
Mr Herbert, leader of the city’s 26 Labour councillors, said: “Our thoughts and emotions are with his wife Jenny so far away, and with Nigel’s family and close friends at this truly horrible time.
“As a councillor and mayor of Cambridge, Nigel served with distinction and panache.”
He added: “Nigel was a one-off. He was a thoroughly engaging individual who will be hard to replace.”
The BBC understands Mr Gawthrope’s brother will fly to South Africa on Monday and the family is being supported by the British consulate in South Africa.
East of England MEP Alex Mayer said Mr Gawthrope was a “committed ward councillor… who always greeted you with a smile” and described the news as “deeply, deeply sad”.
Labour councillor Kevin Price said he and Mr Gawthrope “shared a history of trades union activism within the printing industry”.
“He loved representing the ward where he grew up,” he added, “and many residents in the ward will share our deep shock and sadness at his untimely death.”