THE FIANCEE of a Penarth Royal Marine that drowned during a Special Forces training exercise has described his inquest as a “heartbreaking” experience.
The inquest heard that Paul Woodland, known as ‘Woody’ to his friends, drowned in a “freak accident” after he was thrown out of a 15ft twin engine rigid inflatable boat and became snagged by his dry suit.
His four comrades on the boat quickly realised he was in trouble and dragged him clear, but by then he was unconscious.
The inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death after the boat had capsized and he became trapped underneath it.
Sian, of St David’s Crescent, said that it was difficult listening to how he died during the inquest but that she now hoped it would help her grieve and eventually have closure.
“It was heartbreaking,” she said.
“We kind of knew what they were going to say beforehand, but when you have someone there reading the medical records in graphic detail that was quite hard for all of us.”
She added that she had mixed feelings after the inquest.
“I thought it would help but it’s just made it worse as it’s brought it all back to the surface and we have to deal with it again,” she said.
“The inquest has been 18 months since he died, and as we didn’t quite know what had happened we didn’t have a grieving process
“I would like to think it’s a degree of closure.”
Sian, 29, was supported at the inquest by her parents and Paul’s family, and thanked everyone for their support.
“I can’t put into words how much they have supported me,” she said.
“Paul’s family have taken me in and have supported me as if I was their own daughter.
“Paul’s mum is like my best friend, and his dad was the one that said I should change my surname to Woodland and that meant a lot.
“I know that Paul’s brother felt like he had to step up into Paul’s shoes and he definitely did that day. “
"It made the day more bearable having him there.”
Last year Sian raised more than £13,000 in Paul’s memory, and she now has more fundraising events planned this year to hit her new target of £10,000.
In June Sian is set to take part in the Royal Marines Wives and Girlfriends Calendar, where she will be next year’s Miss September, as well as the Gibraltar Rock Run in October, the Cardiff Half Marathon and a 17k Commando Challenge.
She is also hoping to have Paul’s name engraved on the cenotaph in Penarth and has been in touch with the Vale Council and Cardiff South and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty.
At the moment only those that have died in conflict can have their names marked on cenotaphs, but Sian is hoping the rules can be changed so that anybody that dies on duty can be honoured.
“That’s somewhere where people can go to remember him,” she said.
“He deserves that recognition.”
You can donate towards Sian’s fundraising in aid of The Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund at: http://www.justgiving.com/Woody80