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devoted Family pay tribute to Tipperary man who died trying to save two others from drowning in Wales

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


Paul O'Dwyer

Paul O'Dwyer

Paul O'Dwyer

The family of a Co Tipperary man who died while trying to save two others from drowning during an incident in Wales last week have described him as a “a devoted husband, father, son and brother”. 

It has been reported that Paul O'Dwyer (24) whose family are from Thurles, died alongside Morgan Rogers (24) from Cefin Coed, Merthyr Tydfil and Nicola Wheatley (40) from Pontardulais, Swansea on the Cleddau River on Saturday.

Another woman remains in a critical condition in the ICU of Withybush Hospital while a further five people were pulled out of the river by the emergency services uninjured.

It is understood that ex-soldier Paul, who lived in Sandfields, Port Talbot, was part of a group of nine adults from the south Wales area who had travelled to Pembrokeshire for a paddle-boarding excursion.

A multi-agency response swung into action involving the police, fire, ambulance, coastguard and, at one point, four helicopters, as the group got into difficulty in the water.

One person, Vickie McKinven from Milford Haven, was quoted as saying Paul had died attempting to rescue two fellow paddleboarders near the weir.

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

Paul's heartbroken family said he 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,” they said in a statement.

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

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

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Mr O'Dwyer worked at Salty Dog Co - a surf-style clothing and paddle boarding company - who tweeted a message saying "goodbye to our salty dog Paul".

O’Dwyer also co-founded the armed forces charity Sa1ute, which paid tribute to him in a post on social media.

“Yesterday’s nightmare is today’s reality as we wake up and realise we have lost a friend that gave so much of his life to help others,” the charity said on Instagram.

“It still hasn’t sunk in that these tragic events have taken away someone in the prime of their life.

The charity said O’Dwyer had a “real zest for life” and was “relentless in his drive for raising money for charity”, not just for Sa1ute but for other charities.

Last month he took part in a 24-hour, 100-mile paddle down the River Wye, which raised more than £5,000 for Calon Hearts, a charity that provides heart screening equipment and defibrillators.

He also helped to organise a mass paddle boarding event in September from Swansea to Port Talbot, which raised more than £2,000 for the RNLI.

Sa1ute said: “He put in tireless hours in the background of Sa1ute, meeting with potential donors or people that could help us progress.

“More often than not, we’d only know about it when he’d achieved something. Not seeking any form of recognition or pat on the back. Just doing it, cos he was a great guy.

“Our thoughts go out to Paul’s family and friends at this truly heart-breaking time. He will be missed by so many.”

The family of Morgan Rogers, who was a deputy store manager at a supermarket, described her as "the best that she could be".

In a tribute, they said: "She will be sadly missed by her mother, father, Rhys, Harry, Holly and Katy."

The family of Nicola Wheatley said she was "amazing in every way" and said her death "has left a void in our lives that will never be filled".

Colleagues of Ms Wheatley, who worked in toxicology and began her career at Guys and St Thomas's Hospital in London, said she was a "go to" person for organising projects and campaigns.

In a tribute, they said: "Through her lovely personality, Nikki made many friends during her time in public service and will be sorely missed by her friends and colleagues at the NPIS.

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

Police have said they are continuing with their investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, “and our thoughts remain with the families of those involved”.

“Anyone who may have information that could assist the investigation is asked to get in touch,” they added.

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