Tributes paid to ex-soldier who lost his life trying to save paddleboarders

1 November 2021, 08:35 | Updated: 1 November 2021, 13:22

Paul O'Dwyer was pronounced dead on the banks of the Cleddau river.
Paul O'Dwyer was pronounced dead on the banks of the Cleddau river. Picture: Aberavon Green Stars RFC Facebook/ Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

A father-of-three and former soldier who died in a paddleboarding accident on a river in Wales tragically lost his life after jumping in to save two women in distress, it has been claimed.

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Paul O'Dwyer was pronounced dead on the banks of the Cleddau river in Haverfordwest, west Wales on Saturday.

Two women also died at the scene, and another woman remains in a critical condition in the intensive care unit of Withybush Hospital.

Five other people were rescued from the water by the emergency services and were uninjured.

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Severe rain meant the river was flooded and had become turbulent when the group got into difficulties on Saturday.

It has been claimed Mr O'Dwyer, an ex-soldier who had served with The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers 108 Welsh Squadron militia, lost his life after jumping in to help others.

One of those 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 described the tragedy as "absolutely heartbreaking".

She said they were all "good friends" and Paul did "so much to raise money for charities".

"Paul did lose his life attempting to save two of the girls also in distress due to an unexpected downpour," she explained.

After leaving the military, Mr O'Dryer became one of the founders of charity SA1UTE, which supports veterans in the South Wales area.

Mr O'Dwyer was also a member of the Aberavon Green Stars RFC.

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The club paid tribute to his "upbeat" character and "infectious smile" on its Facebook page.

It described Mr O'Dwyer as an "avid adventurer, whether he would be paddle boarding, surfing, skiing, walking, or climbing nothing was too small for Paul to achieve".

"No doubt Paul put his own life on the line on Saturday to make sure others were safe," the post said.

Detective Chief Inspector Jonathan Rees of Dyfed-Powys Police, said the group of nine people had got into difficulties after reaching the weir near Quay Street.

He said he was committed to finding out what led to the tragedy unfolding.

"A group of nine adults from the south Wales area had travelled to Pembrokeshire for a paddle boarding excursion yet had got into difficulties at the weir adjacent to Quay street," he told a press conference on Saturday.

"A significant operation, a rescue operation, was commenced involving resources from Midwest Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Wales Ambulance Service Trust, Dyfed-Powys Police, the Coast Guard and the RNLI."

The search was assisted by two helicopters.

The Det Ch Insp continued: "At this stage, my thoughts and the thoughts of my colleagues are with the family of those who lost loved ones, and of the injured person who remains in hospital.

"Paddle boarding is a growing leisure pursuit and we would encourage those engaging in the activity to ensure they understand the weather conditions and water conditions at a particular location where they may be enjoying that sport."