Report into paddleboarding tragedy tells of four victims who lost their lives

Andrea Powell, Nicola Wheatley, Morgan Rogers and Paul O’Dwyer tragically lost their lives at Haverfordwest Town Weir during a paddleboarding tour.  Pictures: Dyfed-Powys Police <i>(Image: Dyfed-Powys Police)</i>
Andrea Powell, Nicola Wheatley, Morgan Rogers and Paul O’Dwyer tragically lost their lives at Haverfordwest Town Weir during a paddleboarding tour. Pictures: Dyfed-Powys Police (Image: Dyfed-Powys Police)

The four paddleboarders who lost their lives in the Haverfordwest Town Weir tragedy were all confident or good swimmers who had prior paddleboarding experience, an official report has stated.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch report published into the incident gave details of Morgan Rogers, Nicola Wheatley, Andrea Powell and Paul O’Dwyer who all tragically lost their lives during a paddleboarding tour in October 2021.

Al four were described as good or confident swimmers and they had all been paddleboarding before, three of them with Salty Dog Co Ltd, the company that organised the Pembrokeshire tour.

All but one of the tragedy’s victims were wearing lifejackets, all but one were wearing a leash, and all but one wearing either a wet of dry suit.

Western Telegraph: Andrea Powell was described as a’ loving mother, wife, daughter and sister, who loved life’.
Western Telegraph: Andrea Powell was described as a’ loving mother, wife, daughter and sister, who loved life’.

Andrea Powell was described as a’ loving mother, wife, daughter and sister, who loved life’.

Andrea Powell, was the third paddleboarder to descend the weir. She was a 41-year-old mother of one from south Wales who worked as a dental hygienist.

The report described her as a good swimmer. Andrea had completed previous paddleboarding river tours with the Salty Dog Co Ltd.

Mrs Powell was recovered from the water, no longer attached to her paddleboard, at Old Quay Slip close to the weir by members of the public and resuscitated at the scene.

Andrea was then taken to hospital but died six days later due to injuries caused by drowning. She was described in a family tribute as a’ loving mother, wife, daughter and sister, who loved life’.

“As a family we are distraught by the loss of Andrea, she will be deeply missed,” they said.

Western Telegraph: Nicola Wheatley's family and colleagues both paid tribute to her as 'amazing in every way'.
Western Telegraph: Nicola Wheatley's family and colleagues both paid tribute to her as 'amazing in every way'.

Nicola Wheatley's family and colleagues both paid tribute to her as 'amazing in every way'. Nicola Wheatley, a 40-year-old mother of two from south Wales, was the sixth paddleboarder to descend the weir. She worked as a poisons information specialist and toxicologist.

The report described her as a ‘confident swimmer and naturally risk averse’.

She started paddleboarding in August 2021 and had completed SUP training with both the Salty Dog Co Ltd and another provider over the summer. This was her first SUP river tour with the Salty Dog Co Ltd.

Nicola Wheatley’s family paid tribute to her: “We are devastated by our loss. Nicola was a loving mother, daughter, daughter-in-law and wife. “Nicola was a beautiful, caring, considerate and funny person.

"She was amazing in every way. She has left a void in our lives that will never be filled."

Nicola’s colleagues also paid tribute to her: “She will be remembered for her calm, friendly and totally professional manner – even when faced with the most difficult of cases,” they said.

“Nikki was an enthusiastic, dedicated and an incredibly capable colleague. She was our ‘go to’ person for organising projects and campaigns.

"Recently, she successfully oversaw a complex and challenging project developing safety sheets for our pharmacy colleagues at the St Mary’s unit.

"Nikki is also remembered as a gifted and dedicated scientist, who made significant contributions to the field of toxicology and presented her work at an international level."

Western Telegraph: Morgan Rogers who died after a paddleboarding accident in Cleddau river in Haverfordwest on Saturday. Picture: Family handout/PA Wire
Western Telegraph: Morgan Rogers who died after a paddleboarding accident in Cleddau river in Haverfordwest on Saturday. Picture: Family handout/PA Wire

Morgan Rogers was training to be a full time firefighter. Picture: Dyfed-Powys Police

Morgan Rogers, a 24-year-old assistant supermarket manager from South Wales in training to become a firefighter, was the eighth paddleboarder to descend the weir.

She was a strong swimmer who had paddleboard experience on the sea and canals; she had had no previous interaction with the Salty Dog Co Ltd.

Ms Rogers had also been a young firefighter with South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and had gone on to become a junior firefighter instructor.

She was in training to become a full-time firefighter with a view to joining a water rescue station in Wales and was interested in becoming an RNLI crew member.

In 2015/16, Morgan was awarded a British Canoe Union Paddlesport Performance 1 and 2 Star certificates. In 2017, she attained a BTEC11 Level 3 National Diploma in Sport (Outdoor Adventure).

“Morgan Rogers was the best that she could be,” said her family after the tragedy. "She will be sadly missed.

Both Ms Rogers and Mrs Wheatley were recovered from the river by tour participants and brought ashore at Higgon’s Well, neither was still attached to their SUP.

The other paddleboarders carried out CPR until the emergency services arrived. Both died due to immersion.

Western Telegraph: Paul O’Dwyer lost his life while trying to save the other paddleboarders. Picture: Dyfed-Powys Police
Western Telegraph: Paul O’Dwyer lost his life while trying to save the other paddleboarders. Picture: Dyfed-Powys Police

Paul O’Dwyer lost his life while trying to save the other paddleboarders. Picture: Dyfed-Powys Police

Paul O’Dwyer, 42, was the ninth paddleboarder to descend the weir. He was the tour’s fellow leader who had been travelling at the rear of the group. He descended the weir to help those in difficulty.

An engineer and army veteran, he was a former army surf champion and keen sportsman. He was also a committed fundraiser for several local charities.

He was a friend and neighbour of the tour leader. He was a described as confident individuals who, in addition to previous SUP training and tours, had organised and led SUP events to raise money for local charities.

In a statement after the tragedy, his family said that he gave his life trying to save others.

“He was a devoted husband, father, son and brother. He devoted his life to contributing to society in his many adventures in raising money for different causes,” they said.

“Paul was a water baby. His passion for the water started with Aberavon lifeguards from an early age.

“His sporting prowess extended to many different sports. He was an army surfing champion, British Army seven-aside rugby team member, Aberavon Green stars rugby player, ski instructor and completed multiple times in British and Welsh three peak events.

“His tick list also included the London Marathon, running a 100-mile race, numerous triathlons including Ironman Wales and recently Stand Up Paddle boarding 100 miles in 21 hours to raise money for heart screening in Port Talbot. Paul also helped to set up a charity Sa1ute to support veterans.

Mr O’Dwyer was located further down river by the coastguard helicopter, in the vicinity of Goodwood. He was recovered by RNLI personnel at around 11am on the day of the tragedy. His post-mortem recorded that he died as a result of immersion.

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