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Fourth paddleboarder dies after river trip as Wales woman arrested for gross negligence manslaughter

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A woman has become the fourth person to die in a horror paddleboard tragedy after succumbing to her injuries a week on from the fateful trip. 

Andrea Powell, 41, died in hospital surrounded by her family after being pulled from the water in Pembrokeshire last Saturday.

Her death comes as police arrested a woman from South Wales, believed to be the organiser of the trip, before she was released under investigation.

Meanwhile friends of the victims held a memorial paddleboard event at Aberavon Beach this morning in an emotional tribute.

Ms Powell joins Morgan Rogers, 24, from Merthyr Tydfil, Nicola Wheatley, 40, from Pontarddulais, Swansea, and Paul O’Dwyer, 42, from Sandfields, Neath Port Talbot, among the casualties after the group got into difficulty on the paddleboarding trip on the River Cleddau in Haverfordwest.

Ms Powell, from Bridgend, had been taken to Withybush hospital immediately after being rescued but has now succumbed to her injuries with her family at her side, it was confirmed today.  

Friends of the victims held a memorial paddleboard event at Aberavon Beach this morning in an emotional tribute

Friends of the victims held a memorial paddleboard event at Aberavon Beach this morning in an emotional tribute

Mourning friends and relatives took flowers out into the waters as they paid their respects for the victims

Mourning friends and relatives took flowers out into the waters as they paid their respects for the victims

Morgan Rogers, 24, Nicola Wheatley, 40 and Paul O'Dwyer (pictured), 42, died after a rainstorm hit nine paddleboarders on the River Cleddau in Haverfordwest, on Saturday

Morgan Rogers, 24, Nicola Wheatley, 40 and Paul O’Dwyer (pictured), 42, died after a rainstorm hit nine paddleboarders on the River Cleddau in Haverfordwest, on Saturday

Tributes have flocked in for the three victims, with relatives of health worker Ms Wheatley (pictured), known as Nikki by colleagues, saying she was a loving wife, mother and daughter

Tributes have flocked in for the three victims, with relatives of health worker Ms Wheatley (pictured), known as Nikki by colleagues, saying she was a loving wife, mother and daughter

Megan Rogers's friends said she was passionate about paddleboarding as well as walking the Brecon Beacons with her beloved dog

Megan Rogers’s friends said she was passionate about paddleboarding as well as walking the Brecon Beacons with her beloved dog

Flowers have been laid close to the scene of the drownings near Haverfordwest town centre

Flowers have been laid close to the scene of the drownings near Haverfordwest town centre

Around 80 surfers took to the waves with their boards for the ‘swim out’ as hundreds watched on from the beach.

Close friend and policewoman Nerys Lloyd started the touching tribute today (Sat) as she walked to the sea alongside two children.

Families clapped as the surfers entered the water at Aberavon Beach in Port Talbot, South Wales, carrying flowers.

The group paddled out past the break for ten minutes before gathering in a circle to release flowers into the waves.

Onlooker Caroline Brown, 41, said: ‘It was really emotional to see how many people had come along.

‘The whole ceremony was beautiful and a fitting way to remember those who have died.’

The accident is believed to be the worst paddle boarding accident in the history of the sport. 

During this morning's tribute, a number of friends headed out into the waters on their boards as a tribute to the four victims

During this morning’s tribute, a number of friends headed out into the waters on their boards as a tribute to the four victims

A large crowd watched on during the memorial paddle on the morning the death of the fourth victim was confirmed

A large crowd watched on during the memorial paddle on the morning the death of the fourth victim was confirmed

Dyfed-Powys Police said: ‘Our thoughts are with her family, and all those involved in this tragic incident.’

The five other participants on the trip were rescued unharmed. 

Instructor and father-of-three Mr O’Dwyer was been praised for his bravery and described as ‘an incredible man in every way’ for jumping into the raging water to save the women.

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.

Tributes flocked in for the three victims of the horrific tragedy in the aftermath of the incident, with relatives of health worker Ms Wheatley, known as Nikki by her colleagues, saying she was a loving wife, mother and daughter.

A family member said: ‘Nicola was a beautiful, caring, considerate and funny person. She was amazing in every way.

Many at the memorial had just learned that Ms Powell had become the fourth victim when she died at Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, with her family at her bedside

Many at the memorial had just learned that Ms Powell had become the fourth victim when she died at Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, with her family at her bedside

‘She has left a void in our lives that will never be filled.’

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 at the National Poisons Information service and gave advice to doctors treating patients who had been poisoned.

A statement from her work colleagues described her as an ‘enthusiastic and dedicated’ worker and said 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 an enthusiastic, dedicated and an incredibly capable colleague. She was our ‘go to’ person for organising projects and campaigns.

‘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.

She leaves her young family, husband and extended family. Our thoughts are with them at this terrible time.’

The accident last Saturday morning is believed to be the worst paddle boarding accident in the history of the sport

The accident last Saturday morning is believed to be the worst paddle boarding accident in the history of the sport 

Father-of-three Mr O'Dwyer (pictured) 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

Father-of-three Mr O’Dwyer (pictured) 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

There are numerous fatalities worldwide involving solo stand up paddle boarders but multiple deaths are rare

There are numerous fatalities worldwide involving solo stand up paddle boarders but multiple deaths are rare

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 Tydfil, was deputy store manager at the town’s Aldi supermarket but was planning to join the fire brigade.

Her friends said she was passionate about paddleboarding as well as walking the Brecon Beacons with her beloved dog.

Her mother Teresa Hall posted on Facebook: ‘My beautiful daughter Morgan, taken too young. I’m heartbroken. Sleep tight my baby.’

A statement from Morgan’s family said: ‘Morgan was the best that she could be. She will be sadly missed by her mother, father, Rhys, Harry, Holly and Katy.

The weekend before the tragedy, Mr O’Dwyer had completed a dangerous 24-hour paddleboard marathon along a 100-mile stretch of the River Wye on the Welsh border.

Ex-Royal Engineer Mr O’Dwyer has been described as ‘inspirational’ and a 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 spokesman said: ‘Paul 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.

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

Ms Rogers (pictured), 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 (pictured), who loved outdoor adventures and was a member of the South Wales Paddleboarding Club, was described as a ‘lovely’ girl by her devastated friends

‘His sporting prowess extended to many different sports. He was an army surfing champion, British Army 7 aside rugby team member, Aberavon Green stars rugby player, ski instructor and completed multiple times in British and Welsh 3 peak events.

‘His tick list also included the London Marathon, running a 100 mile race, numerous triathlons including Ironman Wales.’

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, Mr O’Dwyer described himself as ‘entrepreneur, electrical engineer, surfing mad, skiing and snowboard enthusiast. Doting daddy’.  

The group, who were part of an organised outing, had been in the River Cleddau (pictured) only minutes when they were hit by a deluge of rushing water as they paddled near a weir

The group, who were part of an organised outing, had been in the River Cleddau (pictured) only minutes when they were hit by a deluge of rushing water as they paddled near a weir

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 Mr O’Dwyer was an ardent lover of paddleboarding and would often spend his weekends out on the water.

Mr O’Dwyer, an engineering team manager with online retail company Ocado, was on the paddleboarding expedition with friends from Port Talbot and Aberavon.

Mr O’Dwyer, 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.

Five others in the party of nine paddleboarders were unharmed. Pictured: Morgan Rogers, who died in the accident

Five others in the party of nine paddleboarders were unharmed. Pictured: Morgan Rogers, who died in the accident

One of the paddle boarders who was on the trip, Vickie Mckinven, from Milford Haven, said Mr O’Dwyer had died attempting to rescue two fellow paddleboarders who had got into difficulty near the weir.

Ms Mckinven, who said she pulled out of the morning paddle because she was concerned about the weather conditions, said: ‘Paul did lose his life attempting to save two of the girls also in distress due to an unexpected downpour.

‘Absolutely heartbreaking, [they were] all good friends… and did so much to raise money for charities.’ 

Flowers have been laid close to the scene of the drownings near Haverfordwest town centre.

Locals said heavy rain caused flood water to shoot over a weir knocking the paddle boarders into the water and washing them downstream.

At the scene last Saturday, around 30 firefighters, including specialist wading crews and swift water rescue technicians, were among the large joint-search and rescue operation

At the scene last Saturday, around 30 firefighters, including specialist wading crews and swift water rescue technicians, were among the large joint-search and rescue operation

The river was flooded at the time and at least one local water sports company had cancelled all its activities because of the severe weather.

Passerby Joel Williams, 20, jumped into the river after seeing people in distress after coming off their paddleboards before giving one person CPR.

His proud mother Natasha said: ‘Joel was walking across the bridge when he saw people in trouble so he took his phone out of his pocket. People were trying to help. One person said to him ‘you can’t jump in’, he said ‘I am’.

‘He tried to get to the man by using the rope but could not. Then he saw a woman come past him floating on the water, he grabbed her and dragged her on to the slipway and did CPR until the emergency services got there.’

‘We had a phone call 20 minutes later from him saying he needed some dry clothes and a towel because he had just dragged a girl out the river. He was as calm as anything. We were like ‘what’?’

Natasha said Mr Williams, an apprentice plumber from Haverfordwest, had always been a strong swimmer but said she was relieved he didn’t get swept away in the flooded river. 

She said: ‘I am not surprised what he did but I am absolutely in awe.

Police and the Marine Accident Investigation Board are still investigating the accident on the normally still River Cleddau. Pictured: Emergency services at the river last Saturday

Police and the Marine Accident Investigation Board are still investigating the accident on the normally still River Cleddau. Pictured: Emergency services at the river last Saturday

‘Joel was crazy to do it at the time but how can you not when there are people fighting for their lives?’

‘He’s fine. We are just grateful he is a strong swimmer because we could have had a knock on the door as well.’

A spokesman for the Pembrokeshire Coroner said inquests would be opened on the three victims later this month. 

At the scene on Saturday, 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.’

The HM Coroner, Health and Safety Executive and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) were 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.’

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