THE girlfriend of a man who drowned just hours before they were due to fly off on their first holiday together has spoken of her heartbreak.
Beth Kendall, 24, from Lancashire, and Steve Wardle, 31, had planned to jet off to Greece in July 2018.
But with hours to go until their flight and with their suitcases packed, Steve went missing. Hours later, he was found dead in a shallow pond.
Beth told Fabulous Digital: "For him to die at such a young age was tragic. We had so much to look forward to. I miss him dreadfully."
Steve was a fitness fanatic and his physical health and appearance was so important to him. Sadly, he struggled inside with his mental health.
Beth said: “From the outside, he looked fantastic. But inside, he was so ill.”
Beth and Steve met in September 2016 at their local gym. He was a personal trainer and ran Beth’s classes.
Beth, a staff nurse, said: “Steve was a really confident, inspirational bloke.
“But he had a caring, softer side too. I fell for him straightaway and we were made for each other.
“I had joined the gym to try to ease the stress of a really bad bout of eczema. But we used to joke that I came home with more than I bargained for.”
The couple moved in together in March 2017. Steve had two children from a previous relationship, a sports science degree and was a fitness fanatic who played in several teams.
Beth continued: “Steve was really into health and fitness. That’s what makes this so tragic. He took great care of himself and his physical health was paramount.
“But he couldn’t control his mental health and he didn’t understand it. He’d have periods of anxiety for no reason and it worried him.”
We had so much to look forward to. I miss him dreadfully. From the outside, he looked fantastic. But inside, he was so ill.
In July 2018 the couple were excited about travelling to Greece.
Beth said: “Our packing was done and we had a taxi booked. We were due to fly at 6am the following morning and we were both excited.
“But at 10pm, Steve decided to go out for a run. He liked to run, though he didn’t usually go out late at night. Running was a way of relieving stress for him.
“I asked him not to go because it was dark, but he just went. I followed him out of the door and shouted his name but he kept running.”
Beth waited at home – but had a sickening sense that something was wrong.
She said: “Steve had seemed preoccupied and I was worried about him. When he wasn’t back after an hour, I began to panic."
She continued: “He knew we were going on holiday and so he wouldn’t have just gone out for hours. I had to cancel the airport taxi and the driver laughed when I said my boyfriend was missing. Obviously, he just thought he was out drinking or something.
“I waited up all night, willing him to come home. I was panic-stricken.”
Beth reported Steve missing at 1am and at 5.30am his body was found, face down in a shallow pond in the park where he had been running.
Beth continued: “The pond would only have come up to Steve’s thigh. There is a theory that he tripped and fell into the pond, unconscious.
“There were so many questions, swirling around my head. It was devastating.”
At his funeral, his family played ‘Eye of the Tiger’ which was the motivational song Steve used in his training videos.
Beth said: “I’d like to raise awareness of mental health issues, especially in young men.
“Steve’s mental health was certainly the trigger for his run that night. I think he possibly tripped in the pond because his anxiety was affecting his concentration.”
An inquest into Steve’s death found that he had died from dry-drowning, which happens after someone has inhaled water through liquid accumulating in their lungs.
Dr Mike Pitt, a pathologist at Royal Preston and Chorley hospitals, carried out a post-mortem examination and found no traces of internal trauma, abnormalities or illegal substances in his body.
He added that there were traces of a prescription drug to treat anxiety but that they were not at levels that would cause an overdose.
Dr Pitt continued by saying he had “come to a conclusion that the cause of death was drowning”, with it being likely that his airway had closed up due to spasms caused by the presence of cold water.
DI Nick Hills from Lancashire Police inspected the area around the pond after finding Steve where he found no evidence of scuff marks.
Area coroner Richard Taylor said Steven had drowned but how he came to be in the water was not known.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
Natalie Lawson told Fabulous Digital how her son drowned on the hottest day of the year – and she found out via Facebook.
Meanwhile these mums shared the agony of losing their children to drowning.
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