Three paddleboarders die in accident on Welsh river

·4-min read
Police have said three people died in an accident on a river (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Archive)
Police have said three people died in an accident on a river (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Archive)

Three people have died and one is in a critical condition in hospital after a group of paddleboarders got into distress on a river in Wales, police have confirmed.

A man and two women died at the scene while another woman continues to be treated at Withybush Hospital, Dyfed-Powys Police said.

Five people who were rescued from the water were uninjured.

Emergency services descended on the river Cleddau in Haverfordwest on Saturday to take part in a multi-agency river rescue to search for individuals in the river.

Severe rain had meant the river was in flood and had become turbulent.

Sadly two women and a man died at the scene, and a woman remains in a critical condition in hospital. Next of kin are being supported by specialist family liaison officers

DCI Jonathan Rees

Those involved are said to have been a part of the South Wales Paddle Boarders and Salty Dog Co, an organisation based in Port Talbot.

The group of nine people were from different areas across South Wales and were on an annual tour, spending the weekend together exploring the river.

Paul O’Dwyer, from Salty Dog Co, is one of the three who died, the PA news agency understands.

On Sunday morning, the company posted a tribute to Mr O’Dwyer on Twitter, saying: “It is with heavy heart that we say goodbye to our salty dog Paul.

“A lovely human being taken too soon. Our thoughts and prayers are with your friends and family. You will be missed greatly.”

Mr O’Dwyer and company director Nerys Lloyd took part in a charity event earlier this month, raising more than £4,000 by completing the The Wye 100 in 24 hours, paddling down 100 miles of river from Glasbury to Tintern Abbey.

He was also the organiser of a mass paddleboard event in September when 130 people paddled from Mumbles in Swansea to Aberavon in Port Talbot, raising more than £2,000 for the RNLI and a local lifeguard club.

One of the members on the fatal trip said she had pulled out of the paddle on the morning of the incident as she was concerned about the conditions.

Vickie Mckinven, from Milford Haven, told PA: “Absolutely heartbreaking, was all good friends. And did so much to raise money for charities.”

A member of the public is also believed to have entered the water to attempt a rescue, later exiting the water safely.

Dyfed-Powys Police have not yet released the names of those who have died but said their next of kin are being supported by specialist officers.

It's such a turbulent river when it's in flood

Lyndon Frayling

Detective Chief Inspector Jonathan Rees said a full investigation was already under way but at this stage his thoughts were focused on the loved ones of those who had died and the injured paddleboarder who remains in hospital.

The force said: “Dyfed-Powys Police received reports of people in distress in the Cleddau River in Haverfordwest shortly after 9am on Saturday, October 30.

“A group of nine adults from the south Wales area had travelled to Pembrokeshire for a paddle-boarding excursion.

“The exact circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated, but it is believed that the group got into difficulty in the water.

“Sadly two women and a man died at the scene, and a woman remains in a critical condition in hospital. Next of kin are being supported by specialist family liaison officers.”

The Quay Street area was cordoned off for several hours, with the public asked to avoid the area while a search of the river took place.

Thirty firefighters from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, including specialist wading crews and swift water rescue technicians, responded to assist with the rescue.

Two fire boats were launched to assist with bank and river searches, with crews working closely with the attending Coastguard teams.

There was helicopter support from NPAS, Coastguard and Wales Air Ambulance, and Angle RNLI lifeboat was also tasked.

Welsh Ambulance Service responded with several ambulances, taking the injured woman to Withybush Hospital.

More than 20 police officers attended the scene, which remained cordoned off until around 5pm.

The HM Coroner, Health and Safety Executive and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) have been informed.

Thomas Tudor, councillor for the town’s Castle Ward on Pembrokeshire County Council, called the incident a “terrible tragedy”.

Fellow councillor Lyndon Frayling told PA: “They were on the river. It’s such a turbulent river when it’s in flood.”

Stephen Crabb Welsh Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, said on Saturday: “Horrific incident in Haverfordwest this afternoon.

“Thoughts with all involved and the emergency services responding.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear about the tragic accident on the River Cleddau – my thoughts to all those affected.”

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