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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Canoe tragedy twin, 9, is named
The River Wye where the incident happened
Rescuers used a boat to reach Billie on the 'benign' stretch of the Wye
A nine-year-old girl who died after a canoe capsized on a mid Wales river during a family break has been named.

Billie Holiday Clayton was with her father Ian Clayton, an ITV Yorkshire presenter, and her twin brother Edward.

Their canoe overturned on the Wye at Glasbury, near Hay-on-Wye. Billie was airlifted to hospital but later died. The other two suffered hypothermia.

The Wales Canoeing Association said the tragedy was "extremely rare" in what was otherwise "a very safe sport".

Mr Clayton and his son were treated in hospital in Hereford for hypothermia and then discharged.

All three family members had been wearing life-jackets. Police have begun an inquiry into the canoeing accident, which happened at about 1600 BST on Wednesday, approximately an hour after they set off.

This is known as a particularly benign piece of river... it's used a great deal by people who are learning to canoe
Councillor James Gibson Watt

The group got into difficulty on the normally-calm river - which locals said had been swollen by recent rain - and their boat overturned.

Billie's father and brother made several frantic attempts to save her, along with members of the emergency services. A boat had to be used to reach her.

She was airlifted to hospital in Hereford where she was pronounced dead. Mr Clayton and his son were taken to Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny suffering from hypothermia, but later discharged.

'Safe sport'

Powys councillor James Gibson Watt said he felt "extreme sadness" that what had "started as a fun family day out ended in such tragedy". He had never heard of a tragedy like this on the river.

"This is known as a particularly benign piece of river. In fact it's used a great deal by people who are learning to canoe.

Police van at the scene
Police cordoned off an area of the river bank

"A lot of outdoor pursuits centres in the area use it to teach young people how to canoe - so this event has come as an enormous surprise."

"Thousands of people use this stretch of river every year because it is so suitable for this type of activity," Mr Gibson Watt added.

Richard Harvey, chief executive of the Wales Canoeing Association, warned against "sensationalising" the tragedy, on the eve of the Easter break when hundreds of holidaymakers were poised to head for mid Wales.

He said: "I think that the incident is very regrettable, although we do not yet know the circumstance of what happened.

"It is very easy to sensationalise something like this when it happens, but canoeing is a very safe sport."

'Buoyancy aids'

A local outdoor activity instructor, who did not wish to be named, said he was among several canoeists called out to help find Billie.

He said the river had been in flood recently following heavy rain.

"I personally wouldn't have advised people to go out yesterday because I prefer to play it safe. It wasn't high water but it was windy."

Outdoor activity companies would usually check changes in the river after flooding in case of bank erosion, he said.

Local pub landlord Ron Deadman said: "We get the casual canoers... who haven't had any instruction or information about the river.

"They come down, they may not be wearing buoyancy aids, they may not be suitably dressed."

"Thousands of people use this stretch every year safely"

"A fun family day out ended in such tragedy"



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