The Chairman of a canoe club whose senior instructor died on the Fowey on New Years Day has spoken of his grief at the “incomprehensible” loss.
Wyre Forest Canoe Club in Worcestershire have been rocked by the loss of Dave Smith in Cornwall and another instructor, Steve Wall, on the River Teme in Shropshire.
The two died within twenty-four hours of each other.
Questions have been raised about why either man was canoeing solo – but club chairman Mr Buchan said it was “too early” to address such issues.
The fifty-three year old from Stourbridge said the two tragedies were a “shocking, horrible coincidence”.
He recalled: “We had a meeting with some of the club members yesterday (Mon). People are just stunned and can’t believe what has happened to these two paddlers.
“Our deepest thoughts are with both the families – both Steve and Dave’s family – at such a tragic time as this – it’s incomprehensible what’s happened.”
Steve Wall, from Elton, near Ludlow, Shropshire died yesterday after ‘getting into difficulties’ out canoeing on the River Teme at around 9.30 in the morning.
Only the day before his pal and fellow senior instructor, Dave Smith perished tackling a shallow stretch of whitewater in Cornwall.
The 49 year old father of three was on holiday with his family and celebrating New Years Sunday with a paddle along Golitha Falls on the Fowey.
Both men were paddling solo – something clubs and associations advise against on safety grounds.
Port of Plymouth Canoe Association President Ken Hamblin revealed of the first tragedy: “I have never known anybody paddle Golitha Falls.
“Nobody in the whitewater world would try it.
“It’s just not done, not in that level of water. I don’t think there could have been enough.
“It’s just an awful tragedy and so sad that someone’s lost their life paddling on their own.
But he confessed: “I think it’s suicidal personally – you wonder why somebody has done that.”
“It’s a golden rule of paddling that you paddle in a group – otherwise there is no-one to save you if you get into trouble.”
The two victims club chairman Mr Buchan said of his two lost friends: “They’d both recently become UKCC Level One’s which is a British Canoe Union qualification.
“So they were both fully qualified coaches and qualified in this last year
“They’d started to give back to the club the training they’d had over the last few years and contribute to the trainig of new paddlers.
“Dave was a committee member for three or four years now and Steve joined the committee in November.
“They were sort of my team who ran the club so I got to know them very well. I’m senior coach and they were my new coaches.
Mr Buchan explained: “You have to build a bond of trust with a coach because you need to know that if you need their assistace because they’ve capsized – they’ll be there.
“Our club is like an extended family: they were very good paddlers and had built up a lot of trust and they’d standing in the club that new members looked up to.
“They were what people would have been aspiring to when they were coming into paddling and they were really nice blokes to be with.”
He went on: “Dave has been to canoe the Alps on a few occasions and Steve went for a week in 2011, to experience the French Alp rivers.
“Their loss is a shocking, horrible coincidence – all the membership, round about a hundred members – are stunned.
“Partly because Dave and Steve were so experienced: Steve had been paddling about five years, Dave sixteen.
“We sort of invite people to the Alps because we feel they can use the experience: it’s not truly a club paddle – it is an arduous trip out to the Alps.
“It is a sort of trial – and both Steve and Dave were experienced enough that it was decided they could take on the Alps.”
Instructor Mr Smith was last seen clinging to a rock, after losing his canoe at Golitha Falls at around 3.30pm on Sunday afternoon.
A rescue helicopter was scrambled from RAF Chivenor and the man flown to Derriford Hospital, but tragically, it was too late to save him.
Mr Wall got into trouble at around 9.30 yesterday morning on the River Teme.
Inspector Andy Smith of West Mercia Police said: “We had a call at 9.37am from a member of the public.
“They had spotted a canoeist in trouble on the water.”
Other members of the Wyre Forest Club posted tributes on the club website.
Dan Gale wrote: “Again: shocked news that in less than 24 hours we have lost another great friend and all round nice guy.
A message left by ‘Simon Elspeth and Dom’ said: “Gobsmacked and stunned.