Pictured: Keen paddleboarder who died on turbulent Welsh river after floods

·5-min read
Pictured: Keen paddleboarder who died on turbulent Welsh river after floods

Three people have died and one is in 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.

Paul O’Dwyer, from Port Talbot, south Wales, has now been identified as one of the victims who died in the freak accident.

His employer Salty Dog Co - a surf-style clothing and paddleboarding company - paid tribute to him in a post on social media. They wrote: “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.”

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.

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.

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 Media: “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.

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 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.

An MAIB spokesman said: “A team of inspectors from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch has deployed to Haverfordwest to undertake a preliminary assessment of the accident, working in co-operation with other agencies.

“The aim of the MAIB’s preliminary assessment is to help with determining the way forward.”

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

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

A spokesperson from the Welsh Ambulance Service said on Saturday: “We were called at 9.16am this morning to reports of a water-based incident involving multiple people near Quay Street, Haverfordwest.

“We responded with two rapid response vehicles, three emergency ambulances and two units from the Wales Air Ambulance.

“As of 1pm one patient had been transferred by road to Withybush Hospital for further treatment.”

Liz Saville Roberts, leader of Plaid Cymru in Westminster, said on Saturday: “The news emerging from the River Cleddau incident in #Haverfordwest is distressing.

“God speed the emergency services and support the families.”

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.”

NPAS south west region also tweeted about their involvement, saying: “Thoughts are with all those effected by the tragedy today in #Haverfordwest.”

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