Tragic paddleboarder's River Wye challenge raises more than £6,000

By Ross Gazette reporter   |   Reporter   |
Monday 15th November 2021 7:00 am
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A former soldier who was one of the four paddle boarders who died in last week’s Haverfordwest tragedy had paddled 100 miles for charity down the River Wye just the week before.

Donations have poured in to the fundraiser in aid of heart screening since news of the Saturday, October 30 disaster.

Father-of-three Paul O’Dwyer, who was a member of the Royal Monmouthshire Royal Engineers 108 Welsh Squadron militia, died when he tried to save two women who got into difficulties at a weir on a fast moving Cleddau river.

Two women - Morgan Rogers, 24, from Merthyr Tydfil, and Nicola Wheatley, 40, from Pontarddulais, Swansea - also died after being pulled out of the water.

And it was announced on Saturday November 6 that a third woman, Andrea Powell, aged 40, from Bridgend, had died in hospital after failing to recover from her injuries, taking the tragic toll to four.

Nine paddle boarders set out on the fatal Cleddau trip, which was being run by South Wales Paddle Boarders and Salty Dog Co, a surf clothing and paddle board business Mr O’Dwyer worked for.

South Wales Police confirmed last Saturday that a woman, believed to be the organiser of the trip, had been arrested and released pending further investigation on suspicion of gross negligence manslaughter.

Also last weekend, some 80 paddle boarders and surfers took to the sea at Aberavon beach in Port Talbot, led by Salty Dog company director and policewoman Nerys Lloyd in tribute to the victims.

Renowned for his charity fundraising efforts, just eight days earlier Mr O’Dwyer had undertaken a gruelling Glasbury to Tintern 24-hour Wye challenge with her and Gemma Cox, passing through Ross-on-Wye, Symonds Yat and Monmouth.

Since the tragedy, nearly 400 donations have pushed the online fundraiser to £6,154, more than a third above its target.

The trio paddled day and night non-stop throughout the challenge to make the 24-hour cut-off time.

A post on the fundraising page dating to before the heartbreaking events of last week says: “The aim of this madness is to raise awareness and money for Heart Screening in Wales.

“The purpose of heart screening is to detect heart abnormalities early. This means that treatments can be given and interventions made in people whose heart abnormalities would have otherwise gone undetected. Early diagnosis means potential lives saved.

“I think we all sadly know someone who has been taken too early due to having a heart problem that potentially could have been picked up if they were screened. This is our goal.

“Please please please support us in this epic challenge to raise the much needed funds to host a “walk in” screening day here in Port Talbot… £4,500 will enable 60 people to get screened in one day alone.

“Imagine if we could double our target and potentially save 120 lives.”

A friend of Mr O’Dwyer’s posted online in tribute after October 30’s tragedy: “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.”

A post with a donation from Stand Up Paddleboarding Wales, made before the death of the fourth victim was announced, said: “Sending our deepest condolences to the family at this devastating time and making donations from us & our members in respect of Paul, Nicola, and Morgan.

“Rest In Peace - One Love X SUP.”

Another poster and donor added: “This is devastating news. My heart goes out to Paul’s family, friends and colleagues. RIP.”

To support the fundraiser, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/saltydogco

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