'Incredible' ex-soldier and dad 'died after he jumped into water to save two other paddleboarders' who drowned in river

AN 'INCREDIBLE' ex-soldier and a dad "died after he jumped into the water to save two other paddleboarders" before drowning in a river.

Paul O'Dwyer, 42, was one of the tragic victims after fierce downpours lashed River Cleddau in Pembrokeshire, in Wales yesterday morning.

Two women were also pronounced dead at the scene, and another woman remains in a critical condition in the ICU of Withybush Hospital.

Another five people were rescued uninjured after a multi-agency search operation was launched, police confirmed today.

The group of nine adults from South Wales had travelled to Haverfordwest for a paddle-boarding excursion.

One of the paddleboarders 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 said: "Paul did lose his life attempting to save two of the girls also in distress due to an unexpected downpour.

"Absolutely heartbreaking, was all good friends.


"And did so much to raise money for charities."

Mr O'Dwyer was an ex-soldier and had served with The Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers 108 Welsh Squadron militia.

After leaving the military he became one of the founders of charity SA1UTE, which supports veterans in the South Wales area.

Police were scrambled after reports of the group "in distress" in the water near the town centre just after 9am.

Tributes have poured in for the ex-soldier from Port Talbot, who was named as of the three paddleboarders who died.

Mr O'Dwyer, a former Royal Engineer, described himself as a "dedicated daddy" and was a devoted charity fundraiser.

In 2017, he co-founded up the Armed Forces charity SA1UTE to help to help struggling former servicemen and women.

Mr O'Dwyer was involved with the Salty Dog Co surfshot at Aberavon Beach close to his home in Port Talbot.

In a Twitter post, Salty Dog Co 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."

A friend of Mr O'Dwyer's posted on Facebook: "He was a fantastic campaigner for charity and someone with a zest for life.

The world has lost a truly great man – he was one of the best

“There was nothing Paul couldn’t do. You have been a fantastic friend and I’m so sorry that you’ve been taken so soon.”

Another pal 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."

A spokesman for Aberavon Green Stars Football Club in Port Talbot wrote: "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."


Mr O'Dwyer took part in a charity event earlier this month, raising more than £4,000 by completing the The Wye 100 in 24 hours, paddling 100 miles of river from Glasbury to Tintern Abbey.

He also organised an 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.

Last February, Mr O'Dwyer met Prince William and Kate Middleton when the Cambridges toured the RNLI Mumbles lifeboat station overlooking Swansea Bay.

One witness who saw the horror unfold said: "A man's body was seen in the river and a woman was also taken away.

"She seemed alive but didn't look very well at all.

"It is terrible and just so tragic. It started off a lovely Saturday morning then the river just swelled up.

"It must have been terrifying."

Another witness said a "young woman" was pulled from the river.

"They were just below the weir when they were hit by a flash flood which came from nowhere," they said.

"It was raining hard at the time and the river levels are quite high because of the bad weather we've had this week."


Town councillor Thomas Tudor called it a "terrible tragedy" and sent his sympathies "to the families who have lost loved ones".

Dyfed-Powys Police said the exact circumstances of the tragedy are being investigated, but it's believed the group got into difficulty in the water.

The victims' next of kin are being supported by specialist Family Liaison Officers.

Thirty firefighters, including specialist wading crews and swift water rescue technicians, were scrambled to assist with the rescue mission.

A terrible tragedy unfolded on the River Cleddau in the Castle Ward of Haverfordwest.

Two fire boats were launched along with Coastguard teams and an RNLI lifeboat.

There was helicopter support from NPAS, Coastguard and Wales Air Ambulance.

More than 20 police officers were involved in the search efforts as officers combed the banks close to the town centre.

Police recovered three paddleboards from the river and stacked them on the bank during their search.

Town Councillor Mr Tudor said: "Today a terrible tragedy unfolded on the River Cleddau in the Castle Ward of Haverfordwest.

"I would like to extend my sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy and I would like to thank the emergency services for their brave efforts in tackling this issue.

"I would also like to thank the staff from the Bristol Trader and Vaughans Radio who provided help and support for the emergency services during this difficult operation."

DCI Rees from Dyfed-Powys Police has appealed to anyone who may have information that could assist the investigation to get in touch through the force's website via this link.

The Health and Safety Executive and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) have been informed.

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