An ex-soldier is among three paddleboarders swept to their death in Wales after being caught in a flash flood.
Father-of-two Paul O’Dwyer, 42, died along with two women after after getting into distress on a river during a paddleboarding session in Haverfordwest, South Wales, on Saturday morning.
Another woman remains in a critical condition at Withybush Hospital, Dyfed-Powys Police has confirmed.
The ‘inspirational’ Mr O’Dwyer, a dedicated charity fundraiser and former soldier, had raised more than £4,000 for heart screening with a 24-hour paddleboarding marathon down another Welsh river with two friends just a week ago.
Pictured: Paul O’Dwyer, one of three people who died in river Cleddau, in Wales, on Saturday
Emergency services at River Cleddau in Haverfordwest, Wales. Three people were on boards on a usually calm stretch of the river when they were hit by a huge deluge of flood water
He took part in the 100-mile marathon after losing four friends to heart problems.
A friend who didn’t want to be named, said: ‘The world has lost a truly great man – he was one of the best. Paul was a family man who loved the great outdoors and was in his prime.
‘He was always doing something, running 10ks and triathlons, surfing and skiing. He’s lost a few friends from heart attacks and was raising money for other men to get screened. That’s the sort of bloke he was.’
On his Twitter page Paul described himself as ‘entrepreneur, electrical engineer, surfing mad, skiing and snowboard enthusiast. Doting daddy’.
His local football club Aberavon Greenstars FC added in a tribute: ‘It’s been a horrendous 48 hours for our town, a weekend where we’ve lost some of our finest.
‘Paul O’Dwyer, where do we begin? Everything the man did was for the benefit and betterment of others, he really did make the world a better place and has left a legacy of inspiration and hope to those who perhaps didn’t realise they needed it.
‘You’ll be sorely missed by all, Brother.’
Friends said Paul was an ardent lover of paddleboarding and would often spend his weekends out on the water.
Paul, an engineering team manager with online retail company Ocado, was on the paddleboarding expedition with friends from Port Talbot and Aberavon.
Pictured: Rescue teams searching for paddle boarders at the River Cleddau today. It comes amid warnings to be careful of dangerous ‘fast flowing and deep floodwaters’
Paul, who described himself as a ‘dedicated daddy’ – was a regular paddleboarder based at Aberavon beach near his home and gave lessons with the Salty Dog Co surfshop.
Salty Dog clothing company said it was saying goodbye with ‘a heavy heart’, saying Mr O’Dwyer, from Port Talbot, would be missed greatly.
Before his marathon, Paul said: ‘So over the past year I’ve lost four friends to heart issues and heart attacks. If you know we save one life then that would be amazing and well worth it.
‘The friends I’ve lost none of them knew they had any issues with their heart. So if they’d been screened, then there’s a good chance it could have been picked up.
Paddleboards were recovered by rescuers and laid on the river bank close to Pembrokeshire Council’s head offices. Locals say river levels had risen because of high rainfall in recent days
‘I’m approaching that age now, I am 42 now, so I’m thinking it’s time to get screened and take friends along with me on that journey to hopefully stop another person dying young.’
Paul had travelled 60 miles from his home in Port Talbot, South Wales, to the River Cleddau in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, when tragedy struck.
The group, part of an organised outing, had been in the water only minutes when they were hit by a deluge of rushing water as they paddled near a weir on the swollen river.
Five more people in the expedition, understood to be part of the South Wales Paddle Boarders and Salty Dog Co, were rescued from the water.
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.
One member of the group said she pulled out of the trip due to concerns about the adverse conditions.
A kite surfer was also rescued by a helicopter yesterday afternoon after strong winds launched him 30ft into the air and flung him onto land in Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset
She said: ‘Absolutely heartbreaking, was all good friends. And did so much to raise money for charities.’
Dyfed-Powys Police has 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 added that a full investigation into the incident is underway, but at this stage his thoughts were focused on the families of the victims.
A police statement 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.
Two Wales Air Ambulance helicopters by river Cleddau in Haverfordwest yesterday afternoon
Paddleboards recovered by emergency services from river Cleddau in Haverfordwest, Wales
‘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 immediate area was cordoned off by emergency services for several hours following reports of the incident.
Around 30 firefighters, including specialist wading crews and swift water rescue technicians, were among the large joint-search and rescue operation.
Multiple helicopters from the National Police Air Service, Coastguard and Wales Air Ambulance also assisted in the search.
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.’
It comes amid 70mph winds and heavy rainfall battering much of the UK on Sunday.
The Met Office has said ‘damaging winds’ of up to 60mph to 70mph are possible throughout the day, particularly along the south coast, due to a ‘deep Atlantic low pressure system’ arriving from the west.
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.’