THERE was shock and sadness in Wiltshire after it emerged one of the canoeists in the annual Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race died on Easter Monday in London.

Race directors said: "We are co-operating with the relevant authorities in investigating the incident fully."

They said their, "thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of the paddler".

David Joy, chief executive of British Canoeing, said: "I'm sure our whole community will be deeply upset to hear the tragic news this morning that a paddler has lost their life whilst competing in the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race."

The race is thought to be one of the world's toughest endurance challenges with the first 52 miles along the Kennet and Avon Canal and the next 55 miles are on the River Thames.

It's a guelling test as the canoeists pass through 77 locks and the race ends at Westminster Bridge near the Houses of Parliament.

In a message posted on their website the organisers said: "The directors of the DW race are deeply saddened to report an incident in today’s race in which a paddler lost their life. We are fully cooperating with authorities. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the paddler. We ask that their privacy is respected at this time."

It had been so different up until the news on Easter Monday as sunny weather blessed the event but slow river flows had meant it was a particularly tough race where only the toughest and fittest canoeists made it to the end. Many dropped out from exhaustion as the 125 miles of waterway sap the strength of even the best.

For only the second time in the race’s history, the event was won by a mixed pair, with Dan Seagrove and Alexandra Lane of Reading Canoe Club.

The duo held off the challenge of some highly experienced competitors from the British Army and the Royal Marines.