Three paddleboarders who navigated the River Spey at the time of a suspected chemical leak or pollution spill have described the moment they became “violently sick”.
Darren Thompson, James Greagg and Edd Barber embarked on a five-day voyage from Kingussie to Spey Bay – regularly swimming in and even drinking the water through a filtration device throughout that time.
The trio travelled from the Cambridge area and London for the adventure break as part of Mr Thompson’s 40th birthday celebrations.
However, before the trip had even finished they began feeling unwell before their condition worsened in the following days.
Paddleboarders became immediately sick after Spey trip
The three paddleboarders embarked on their five-day expedition just one day after the Spey Fishery Board first alerted Sepa to concerns about dead fish.
In the days that followed anglers and ghillies spotted more than 50 fish dead in the water, sparking concerns about a possible chemical leak or pollution spill.
Mr Thompson revealed he started feeling unwell before even reaching their final destination.
He said: “I started feeling unwell the last day. I felt a bit sick when I got up and it got worse and worse and it was awful by the end. I was sick as soon as we got to Spey Bay.
“We got a taxi back to Inverness and my friend threw up in the street as soon as we got there, my other friend was fine but was then sick himself the next day.
“We didn’t know what had caused it – we didn’t notice anything about the water and we saw four or five dead fish, but that’s all, and didn’t think anything more of it.
‘Not a pleasant journey home’
“It certainly wasn’t a very pleasant train journey back home.”
Mr Thompson and his fellow paddleboarders continued to feel very sick for the next two days after finishing their River Spey trip and still continue to feel ill more than a week later.
It was only after reading news reports about concerns about dead fish in the water that the group realised the possible cause of their illness.
Mr Thompson added: “I feel better, but I still feel off. One of my friends has gone to the doctors to have some tests done and the other says it’s felt like being hungover all week.
“We really wanted to do the Spey, because it’s the one. It’s fast and beautiful. We had a brilliant time, it’s just a shame we feel like this now.”
Latest on River Spey investigations
It is still not known what caused more than 50 fish to die and Mr Thompson’s group to fall ill in the River Spey this month.
There have also been several reports of dogs becoming unwell as well as a child becoming sick after swimming at Laggan and three Speyside Way walkers becoming unwell after drinking water at Aberlour.
Sepa says it has not detected any obvious sign of pollution and says it has contacted distilleries who say they have had no issue with water quality.
The government agency says any “significant pollution” would cause deaths in other species in the river, which has not been reported.
It says an initial report on September 7 indicated an “abnormal” water quality reading. However, all tests done by Sepa itself since are within “expected ranges”.
The agency says it will continue to assess reports to find the reason for the fish deaths.