A coroner has recorded a verdict of accidental death during an inquest into Sheila Currie’s death on the River Thames.
Childhood sweethearts Peter Thorburn and Sheila Currie took a boat trip to celebrate their two-year anniversary in May this year – but it was a trip that turned into a nightmare.
After years of looking for each other, the pair had reunited after Ms Currie spotted her former boyfriend in a television advert. The pair planned to get married in September and planned a trip down the Thames ahead of their big day.
On the trip, Ms Currie fell from their powerboat into the river and became trapped by its propellor. Mr Thorburn watched helplessly and held his fiancée’s hand as she died in his arms.
In an interview with Evening News, Mr Thorburn, 70, said: “The boat trip was supposed to be a surprise for me. She was just like that.
“Sheila was a very adventurous person. I would wake up in the morning and not know where I was going to be for the rest of the day.”
The couple had decided to stop for lunch on the riverbank and were trying to moor the craft near the lock gates when Sheila slipped from the boat. He continued: “I was turning off the engine and I heard a yelp.
“It wasn’t a scream or anything so I didn’t realise at first anything was wrong.
“I couldn’t see her anywhere on the boat or the bank but then I saw her hanging on to the back of the boat. I thought she was just standing there as the water was quite shallow.
“I went to give her a lift out but I couldn’t move her as she was stuck. “She just looked at me. I said, ‘Are you all right?’ and she said ‘Yes, just don’t let me go Peter’.
“She told me she couldn’t feel her leg and then her eyes just flickered and she was gone.”
The craft’s propellor had pierced her thigh and slashed a major artery, but the murkiness of the river concealed the fact the grandmother was quickly bleeding to death.
“I had been shouting for help, I was desperate. I couldn’t see what was wrong,” said Mr Thorburn.
The lock keeper came to his aid and the pair were able to lift Sheila on to the bank, but it was clear to her fiancé that it was too late.
Paramedics administered treatment at the scene, but Sheila, 69, was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, where she was pronounced dead later that afternoon.
Last week Mr Thorburn attended an inquest into Sheila’s death in Oxfordshire.
He said: “I was just getting back on to a level and then it hit me all over again.”
The couple lost touch more than 30 years before meeting again in 2013. Mr Thorburn, who now lives in London, said: “For years both of us had been looking for each other.
“Except I was looking for a Sheila Price, which was her maiden name, rather than Sheila Currie.
“From the day we met in 2013 at Waterloo Station, we were never apart again.
“It was like we had never been apart.”
A coroner in Oxfordshire recorded a verdict of accidental death during an inquest into her death on September 30.
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