Swansea man paralysed in cold water swim warns of dangers

Dan Richards with his partner Anna Thomas
Anna Thomas says she has been "living a nightmare" since her partner Dan Richards became paralysed during a cold-water swim

The partner of a man who became paralysed after a "freak accident" while cold-water swimming in the sea has said she is "living a nightmare".

Anna Thomas, 38, saw the moment Dan Richards, 35, injured his neck at Langland Bay on New Year's Eve in 2023.

Mr Richards, an experienced swimmer from Swansea, said he could not understand how things went so wrong.

He said he did not know what the future held, but was staying positive.

"We were just going for a cold-water dip," he recalled.

"I got into about thigh level, I dived into the wave - a shallow dive, and the wave just dropped.

"It rotated me, the back of my head hit the sand.

"Bright light, loud noise. I was instantly paralysed."

Man and woman stood outside a tent
Anna Thomas says the path to recovery for Dan Richards is going to be long and expensive

Ms Thomas said initially she thought it might have been a joke.

"Then I heard 'help me, I can't move my legs'," she said.

"My mum was on the beach, she said I was screaming. We were screaming for people to help us."

An ambulance came to help stabilise Mr Richards before he was airlifted to Bristol's Southmead Hospital.

He had lifesaving surgery on his neck before being moved to Morriston Hospital in Swansea.

Man diving in the sea
Dan regularly went to Langland Bay and was an experienced swimmer

"I still can't get my head around how things went so wrong," he said.

"It wasn't the biggest wave, and it wasn't the worst of conditions, but a little something like that happens.

"You hit your head, and it's life-changing."

Mr Richards, who has been at Morriston Hospital for three weeks, said the staff had been great.

"I've got my family here every day," he added.

'A living nightmare'

Ms Thomas, who has been spending her days in hospital, said the past month had been difficult.

"[It's been] a living nightmare, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy," she said.

"It doesn't feel real, but this isn't the end for us - whatever happens, and whatever they're going to say to us, we know this isn't it."

Mr Richards said he was told his rehabilitation could take two years - or even be lifelong.The couple have been researching stem-cell treatments and private rehabilitation centres.

"We know how expensive and how much of a long journey this is going to be," Ms Thomas said.

Dan Richards on the beach holding a surfboard with the sun setting
Dan is trying to stay positive as he recovers from his injuries

Mr Richards said his goal was to get as much use back in his limbs as possible.

"It's just keep going, and to give back to the people who have helped us," he said.

He hopes that sharing his story will help to raise awareness about the potential dangers of the sea.

"It doesn't have to be big and scary, little things can go wrong and cause big things to happen," he said.