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Stand up paddleboarding accident report published - Wales, UK

An investigation report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch was released last Thursday (8th December 2022) following the SUP tour accident resulting in 4 deaths last year in Wales, UK (Oct 2021).

Image from Marine Accident Investigation Branch

On 30 October 2021, a group of 9 paddleboarders of mixed paddle boarding ability, joined a tour organised by commercial operator Salty Dog. 4 people died as a result of descending the weir and becoming trapped in the hydraulic towback.

Safety Issues Directly Contributing to the Accident

(page 34 of the report):

1. Four stand up paddleboarders lost their lives because they became trapped in the hydraulic towback at Haverfordwest Town Weir, from which there was no means of escape. [2.3]

2. The tour leaders had planned for accommodation transport and weather; however, without a documented risk assessment and briefing of the participants, the planning and preparation for the tour were inadequate and had overlooked both the active flood alert for the river and the risk posed by the weir. [2.4]

3. Clothing, buoyancy aid and leash wearing were inconsistent across the group and did not follow recognised guidance that paddleboarders on fast-flowing water should wear a suitable personal flotation device and quick release waist leash. [2.5]

4. Lack of clarity over responsibility for the Haverfordwest Town Weir resulted in the hazards it posed to river users being inadequately mitigated. Specifically, a weir risk assessment had not been carried out; the effectiveness of the fillets to create ‘wash-out’ zones had not been assessed; and the signage of the hazard was ineffective and did not conform to national guidelines. [2.6, 2.7]

5. The tour leaders were experienced paddleboarders who had undertaken training as instructors; however, they did not have the training, experience, or qualifications to lead itinerant tours, and their pre-tour planning and reconnaissance did not identify the hazard posed by the weir. [2.8]

6. The tour leaders’ decisions went unchallenged by the participants because they appeared confident and competent. [2.8]

Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, Andrew Moll OBE, said:

“it is critical that the governance of this fast-growing sport improves so the public receive clear, consistent safety advice and are able to recognise businesses that are competent to deliver training, tours and expeditions.”

This tragedy has hit our industry hard and opened our eyes to the risks involved in stand up paddle boarding.

A clear understanding of how to risk assess a suitable environment based on your level of experience and training is essential.

We would like to offer our condolences to the family and friends of those that tragically lost their lives.

Read the full report here.

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