During a commercial paddleboarding tour consisting of nine people, four tragically died after an accident at Haverfordwest Town Weir on the River Cleddau in Wales.
The accident was caused by inadequate planning and risk assessment of the tour leader who was neither qualified nor equipped properly to lead the tour. The four deaths were caused by trapping in a low head dam on the river which eventually lead to drowning; this is a tragic accident and could’ve easily been avoided had the people involved had buoyancy aids and proper equipment.
The Marine Accident Investigation Branch had this to say in it’s reports about the incident:
“At about 09:00 on 30 October 2021, a group of nine stand-up paddleboarders on a commercial river tour from Haverfordwest to Burton Ferry, Wales, descended Haverfordwest Town Weir. Four of the group became trapped at the weir by the hydraulic towback and subsequently lost their lives.”
The branch also provided a list of safety issues that had led to the accident:
- the leaders’ planning and preparation for the tour were inadequate and overlooked the extreme hazard posed by the weir
- signage at the launch point and on the river did not adequately alert participants to the risk of descending the weir
- clothing, buoyancy aid and leash-wearing by participants did not follow recognised guidance
- the leaders did not have the training, experience or qualifications to lead the tour
- UK stand-up paddleboarding safety messaging and training governance is inconsistent and there was no means for the participants to judge the proficiency of training and tour providers
The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents wrote to Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and other stakeholders responsible about safety concerns about that stretch of the river. He suggested that something be done to warn of or reduce the risk, including:
- Inter alia
- Riverside signage
- Warning buoys
- Physical Barriers
Following the incident and investigation, the woman responsible for the tour has since been arrested and awaits trial for manslaughter and gross negligence. If you would like to read the full report on the matter, here is a link to it.