AN heroic dad and local businessman has died while saving the life of his 10-year-old daughter on a family holiday in Italy.

Simon Alessandro Pearson, 47, came to the aid of daughter Francesca when she got into difficulties in the sea at Bosco Verde beach in Ostuni, in the Puglia region of Southern Italy.

The company director, from near Churchstoke, soon found himself battling the strong current and was unable to make it back to shore.

Mr Pearson’s wife Emma Jane told The Times: “They were swimming in the shallows at the beach but the tide pulled them into deeper water.

“Simon held on to my daughter’s hand to keep her afloat but he became unconscious.”

Mrs Pearson said she and her family have been left “traumatised” by the tragic incident, which the Italian coastguard has put down to high winds. Several other swimmers, including Francesca’s grandfather, also had to be rescued.

Mrs Pearson said: “I have two young children who have lost their dad. We are all traumatised.

“My husband worked hard all his life to provide for his family and he has now given his life to save our daughter.”

Martino Maggi, a 49-year-old beach worker, came to the group’s aid and pulled Francesca to safety, but lost his own life after wading back in for Mr Pearson.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are supporting the family of a British man following his death in Puglia. Our staff are in contact with Italian authorities.”

Mr Pearson was a director of Jesmonite Ltd, a specialist building materials company based in Bishops Castle, and had big plans for its future.

The business was hoping to expand in a move to Bishops Castle Business Park, as part of a proposed asset transfer of the park from the ownership of Shropshire Council to the Community Land Trust and Bishops Castle Town Council.

Bishops Castle Mayor Cllr Jane Carroll said: “It is a great loss to the town. He ran a very important business in Bishops Castle and one that was wanting to expand.

“I knew him because of the work that has been done with the business park, and the main business that wanted to go onto the new site was Jesmonite. The business is well-known and is one of the most important employers in the town.”

Cllr Carroll passed the town’s sympathies to Mr Pearson’s family, adding: “We are very sorry for all concerned.

“He was a lovely man.

“Simon’s death has come as a terrible shock and our thoughts are with his family.

“It is such a dreadful tragedy.”