A FATHER has spoken of his despair after his son went for an early morning swim in the sea and died.

A major search was launched on Brighton seafront on Saturday when friends of Thomas Rusling raised the alarm at around 7.30am after he went in to the water and never returned.

The coastguard helicopter searched the shoreline for more than two hours while crews walked along the beach and lifeboat volunteers scanned the waves.

Sussex Police issued an appeal to help find the 28-year-old but just 20 minutes later a group of men walking on the beach east of the Palace Pier spotted a body and pulled the Brighton musician from the sea.

Mr Rusling’s father Mark said he was devastated when police officers knocked on his door to say his son had gone missing and later returned to confirm his body had been found.

Speaking to The Argus, the 59-year-old said: “It all happened so suddenly. He has been taken from us far too soon.

“I woke to police knocking on my door. They said they didn’t want to alarm me but my son might be missing. Not long after that they came back to tell me he was officially a missing person and then half an hour later they told me he had died.

“Something did not feel right when I woke up before the police came. It was like I could almost feel it in the breeze that he was gone. I cannot feel him any more. I don’t want to think about him in the past tense.

“He did like to go for a morning swim but I just wish he had not gone out there. I think he had been out the night before with friends. I always warned him about the dangers of the sea and how unforgiving it was.”

Mr Rusling said he “absolutely adored” his son, adding: “He gave me purpose in my life and a reason to live. He was wonderful, devoted.”

Shortly after 1pm paramedics and police carried a body from the water on Brighton beach just east of the Palace Pier. The search of the seafront had been called off about an hour earlier.

Craig Benford, 41, from Hove, turned up to work at a refreshment kiosk on the beach at about 9am when a man came running towards him after seeing a body in the water.

He said: “A few of us ran down and pulled him out and attempted CPR while the paramedics were on the phone telling us what to do.

“I feel a bit shaken up by it but just feel really sorry for the family. It breaks my heart. We did everything we could but the paramedics told us they thought he had sadly died some time before his body came ashore.

Mr Benford was joined by Paul Tully, 27, and Kim Bernatovitch, 37, from Sevenoaks, who were visiting Brighton for the day and rushed to help when they saw the commotion.

Ms Bernatovitch said: “We were walking along the beach when we saw the body lying there and people trying to resuscitate him so we went over to help. We feel so sorry for his family and our thoughts are with them.”

Mr Tully said: “We are so sad this happened. We just wanted to do anything to try and help.”

Mr Rusling, of York Road in Hove, said he has been inundated with messages of support from friends of Thomas.

He said: “He liked to party, he lived for his weekends and had a lot of friends who he would often go out with.

“I will never forget the day he was born – he was the first baby to be born in Brighton on January 1, 1989 and I had to help my wife deliver him in the bath because we could not get hold of our midwife in time.

“I remember he was born really quickly and I caught him in my arms like a rugby ball. We were so close and had a strong mental connection – we would often make the phone engaged because we were ringing each other at the same time.”

Thomas, of Mayflower Square, was a budding film music composer and was trying to make a name for himself in the industry when he died. Mr Rusling is determined his son’s work and memory will live on and hopes to promote his compositions.

He said: “Tom loved his music. He was a fantastic, genius musician and could play the keyboard and guitar. I used to be a music producer and Tom said he followed in my footsteps but he was much more talented.

“He deserves to be remembered for his talent. We were planning to go in to business together to make film music. I want to still try and do that.”

Thomas also leaves behind a 30-year-old sister, Tiffany, who lives in Brighton.

Mr Rusling added: “She is in shock, she just cannot believe it – they were very close. She came round and we had a big hug. I’m glad I have her with me and we can support each other.”

The coroner has been informed of the death and the family are planning a memorial service.