HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to a "hugely popular" mental health nurse from Dudley who died after contracting coronavirus.

Thembinkosi Ngwenya worked as a mental health nurse at Hallam Street Hospital in West Bromwich and passed away at Russells Hall Hospital earlier this month.

Mr Ngwenya was married with two sons and was also a popular member of Champion's Church in Netherton, which he joined in 2014.

His friends at Champions Church carried out a moving commemoration for the 48-year-old last Wednesday to pay their respects and show their support for his family.

More than 150 people took part in a car procession to Mr Ngwenga's home in Russells Hall, where they decorated their cars with balloons and flags and sang hymns and left flowers outside his home.

Emma Burchell, from Champions Church, said: "He was a joyful friend and a man of great faith. The impact he had on people was massive.

"The pastor Mark Burchell was a close friend of Thembi. He really wanted to do something to honour his life, especially as you can’t have normal funerals at the moment.

"We’re devastated he is gone. So many people have spoken so highly of him."

The church has set up a Go Fund Me page to help Mr Ngwenya's family, which has already raised thousands of pounds.

Paying tribute to her husband, Mr Ngwenya's wife said in a statement: "Thembi was an incredible person and we are devastated by his passing. He was a loving husband and wonderful father to our two boys, and was passionate about his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“He was so proud when he completed his training in 2018 and secured a job as a mental health nurse. He loved his work and was incredibly dedicated to the patients that he looked after.

“We would like to pay tribute to the staff at Russells Hall Hospital who cared for Thembi during his illness.”

Mark Axcell, Chief Executive of Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “Known to his colleagues at Thembi, he was a highly respected and hugely popular mental health nurse. After qualifying in May 2018, Thembi joined the organisation in October 2018 and worked as a nurse on both Friar Ward and Abbey Ward at Hallam Street Hospital in West Bromwich.

“He was an incredibly dedicated nurse; full of kindness, compassion and understanding towards the patients he worked with and will be truly missed by all his colleagues.

“We would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to Thembi’s family and our thoughts are with them and all who knew and loved him at this difficult time.”