Tributes have poured in for the victims of a horrific paddleboarding accident that saw a sudden storm transform a river in Wales to a dangerous torrent.
Morgan Rogers, 24, Nicola Wheatley, 40 and Paul O’Dwyer, 42, died after a sudden rainstorm hit the group of nine paddleboarders while they were on the waters of the River Cleddau in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, on Saturday morning.
Instructor and father-of-three Mr O’Dwyer has been praised for his bravery and described as ‘an incredible man in every way’ for jumping into the raging water to save the women.
A fourth member of the group is a woman in her twenties who is fighting for her life in hospital. Five others in the party, understood to be part of the South Wales Paddle Boarders and Salty Dog Co, were unharmed.
The group, who were 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.
The accident on the river Cleddau, which is normally quite still, is being investigated by the Marine Accident Investigation Board and police.
Tributes have flocked in for the three victims of the horrific tragedy, with relatives of health worker Ms Wheatley, known as Nikki by her colleagues, saying she was a loving wife, mother and daughter.
Morgan Rogers (24), Nicola Wheatley, 41, and Paul O’Dwyer (42) both died on Saturday after a severe storm swept away nine paddleboarders from the River Cleddau in Haverfordwest.
The group was part of an organized outing and had only been in the River Cleddau (pictured), for a few minutes when they were struck by a torrent of water as they paddled close to a weir.
A family member stated that Nicole was a kind, caring, considerate, and funny person. She was exceptional in every way.
“She has left an empty space in our lives that will never fill.”
Ms Wheatley worked in toxicology at London’s Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital in London before joining the Cardiff and Vale University health Board 15 years ago.
She was a specialist in the National Poisons Information service. She gave advice to doctors treating poisoned patients.
A statement from her colleagues at work described her as an enthusiastic, dedicated’ worker and that she was a gifted scientist.
It read: ‘She will be remembered for her calm, friendly and totally professional manner – even when faced with the most difficult of cases.
“Nikki was a dedicated, enthusiastic and incredibly competent colleague. She was our ‘go-to’ person for organizing projects and campaigns.
Nikki is also remembered for being a talented and dedicated scientist who made significant contributions in the field of toxicology, and presented her work at international levels.
Tributes have been pouring in for the three victims. Ms Wheatley’s relatives (pictured), who was known as Nikki by her colleagues, said that she was a loving mother, wife, and daughter.
Ms. Rogers (pictured), a woman who loved outdoor adventures and was a South Wales Paddleboarding Club member, was described by her grieving friends as a lovely’ girl
“She has left her husband, young family and extended family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time.
Ms Rogers, who loved outdoor adventures and was a member of the South Wales Paddleboarding Club, was described as a ‘lovely’ girl by her devastated friends.
Ms Rogers of Merthyr Tidfil was deputy manager at the Aldi supermarket, but she had plans to join the fire department.
Friends said that she was passionate about paddleboarding and walking the Brecon Beacons together with her dog.
Teresa Hall, her mother, posted the following Facebook message: “My beautiful daughter Morgan, taken to young.” I’m heartbroken. My baby, sleep tight.
Morgan’s family released the following statement: “Morgan was the best she could be.” She will be missed by her father, Rhys Harry, Holly, Holly, Katy, and brother, Harry.
The weekend before the tragedy, Mr O’Dwyer had completed an extremely dangerous 24-hour paddleboard marathon that ran along a 100 mile stretch of the River Wye at the Welsh border.
Ex-Royal Engineer Mr O’Dwyer was described as an ‘inspirational’ and dedicated charity fundraiser.
The event raised £4,500 for a heart screening charity in honour of five friends who died of undiagnosed heart problems.
A family spokesperson stated that Paul was a dedicated husband, father and son. He dedicated his entire life to helping others through his many adventures in raising funds for different causes.
Friends of Ms Rogers said that she was passionate about paddleboarding and walking the Brecon Beacons with her dog.
Near the scene of the drownings, flowers were placed in Haverfordwest town center
Paul was a water-loving baby. His love for water began at an early age when he joined Aberavon lifeguards.
“His sporting prowess was not limited to one sport. He was a champion in army surfing, a member of the British Army 7-apart rugby team, Aberavon green stars rugby player, and a ski instructor. He also competed in multiple British and Welsh 3 peak events.
“His ticklist also included the London Marathon, running 100-mile races, and numerous triathlons, including Ironman Wales.
A friend said, without naming him: “The world has lost an truly great man – He was one the best. Paul was a man of family who loved the great outdoors, and was at his best.
“He was always doing something. He ran 10ks and triathlons as well as surfing and skiing. He lost a few of his friends to heart attacks and was raising money to help other men get screened. He was that kind of guy.
On his Twitter account, Mr O’Dwyer describes himself as an ‘entrepreneur and electrical engineer, surfing mad. Skiing and snowboard enthusiast. Doting daddy’.
His local football club Aberavon Greenstars FC added their tribute: “It has been a horrendous 48 hour for our town, a Saturday where we’ve lost many of our best.
“Paul O’Dwyer, how do we start? Every action of the man was for the betterment of others. He truly made the world a better place. He left a legacy that inspires and gives hope to people who didn’t know they needed it.
“You’ll be sorely missed, Brother.”
Father-of-3, Mr O’Dwyer (pictured), was praised for his bravery. He was described as ‘an amazing man in all ways’ for jumping into the raging river to save the women
A woman in her twenties is fighting to save her life in hospital. Five other paddleboarders were also uninjured in the accident. Morgan Rogers, who was killed in the accident.
Friends claimed that O’Dwyer was a passionate paddleboarder and would spend weekends on the water.
Mr O’Dwyer is an engineer team manager at Ocado. He was with friends from Port Talbot & Aberavon on the paddleboarding expedition.
Mr O’Dwyer, a man who called himself a ‘dedicated dad’, was a regular paddleboarder who was based at Aberavon beach close to his home and taught lessons at the Salty Dog Co surfing shop.
Salty Dog clothing company said it was saying goodbye “with a heavy heart”, saying that Mr O’Dwyer, Port Talbot, would be greatly missed.
Vickie Mckinven, a paddleboarder from Milford Haven, stated that Mr O’Dwyer was killed trying to rescue two paddleboarders who got into trouble near the weir.
Ms Mckinven claimed that she pulled out from the morning paddle due to concerns about the weather conditions. She said that Paul did indeed lose his life trying to save two girls also in distress because of an unexpected downpour.
“Absolutely heartbreaking,” [they were]All good friends… and did so many things to raise money for charities.
Near the scene of the drownings, flowers were placed near Haverfordwest’s town centre.
Locals claim that heavy rain caused floodwaters to surge over a dam, knocking paddleboarders into the water and washing them downstream.
The river was inundated at the time. At least one local watersports organization had cancelled all activities because of severe weather.
Passerby Joel Williams (age 20) jumped in the river after seeing people who had fallen off their paddleboards. After giving CPR to one person, Passerby Joel Williams jumped in the river.
Natasha, his proud mom, said that Joel was walking across the bridge and he saw people in distress so he took out his phone. People tried to help. He was told to jump in by one person, and he replied that he could.
“He tried to reach the man with the rope but could not. He then saw a woman floating on the water and grabbed her. He did CPR until the emergency service arrived.
“We got a call 20 minutes later from him stating that he needed some dry clothes, and a towel as he had just dragged the girl out of the river. He was as calm and collected as any other person. We were confused.
The accident on the River Cleddau, which is normally still, is being investigated by the Marine Accident Investigation Board and police. Pictured: Saturday, April 7, 2009: Emergency services at river.
Around 30 firefighters, including swift water rescue technicians and specialist wading teams, were on the scene at the scene of Saturday’s large-scale joint-search and rescue operation
Natasha said that Mr Williams, an apprentice plumber, was from Haverfordwest. She said that he had always been a strong swimmer and was relieved that he wasn’t swept away in a flooded river.
She said that she was not surprised at what he did, but that she was in awe.
“Joel was insane to do it at that time, but how can you not when there is people fighting for their life?
He is fine. We are just thankful he can swim well.
A spokesperson for the Pembrokeshire coroner stated that inquests would be opened later this month on the three victims.
On Saturday, there were around 30 firefighters on the scene, including swift water rescue technicians and specialist wading teams.
Multiple helicopters from the National Police Air Service and Coastguard, as well as the Wales Air Ambulance, assisted in the search.
Liz Saville Roberts of Plaid Cymru Westminster said that the news from the River Cleddau in Haverfordwest was distressing.
‘Godspeed the emergency services and support families.
The HM Coroner and Health and Safety Executive and Marine Accident Investigation Branch were informed.
A MAIB spokesperson stated that a team of inspectors from Marine Accident Investigation Branch had arrived in Haverfordwest to conduct a preliminary assessment of this accident. They also worked with other agencies.
“The MAIB’s preliminary assessment aims to help determine the best way forward.