A devastated father today paid emotional tribute to his childhood sweetheart who died after drowning in the bath at their home.
Grieving Lee Rutherford fought desperately to save the life of Gail Wildon after finding her in the bathroom of their family home in Marton, Blackpool.
But it was too late for the mother-of-four.
Ms Wildon, 39, had suffered from epilepsy since childhood and had been warned against taking baths, Blackpool Coroners’ Court was told. But Mr Rutherford, 40, her partner of 16 years, said they simply “never thought it would happen to us”.
The mother’s death was ruled as accidental after she suffered a fit and drowned while running a bath at their home on Rosemede Avenue.
She died on the morning of July 13 – while her children were playing downstairs.
Today her eldest daughter Melissa, 16, paid a moving tribute to her mother.
She said: “I’m proud to have had someone like her in my life and to have had her as a mother. It was always fun at home.”
But Ms Wildon lived with a form of epilepsy that impacted on everyday life, limiting her ability to work as fits would occur at any time and without warning.
It was for this reason she was advised, by medics, never to take a bath while on her own.
But her partner said as a busy mother-of-four she would sometimes take baths to relax, and the pair simply never thought tragedy would strike.
Mr Rutherford and Ms Wildon met at high school, where he was a school year older, and years later they met again.
He said: “I went round with a bunch of flowers one day and we just went from there.
“She was a lovely woman – loving, adventurous and always up to date.
“As a mum she only wanted the best for her children.
“She never let her epilepsy get in the way of things, she just took her medication and got on with it, she was quite private about it.
“To look at her she was just a normal woman. There were never any warnings to her fits.”
Mr Rutherford had been caring for his elderly mother for eight months, staying with her each night, when he returned to the family home at around 11am on the morning of July 13.
On hearing the bath running upstairs he called to Ms Wildon and when he heard no response went into the bathroom where he found his childhood sweetheart in the water, unresponsive.
Pathologist Dr Mark Sissons told the court: “The medical cause of death was drowning and this was most likely caused by having an epileptic fit in the bath.”
Senior coroner for Blackpool and Fylde Alan Wilson said: “This is a particularly sad case involving a young mother who clearly had a loving family.
“She was a long term epileptic but seemed to cope with her condition well.
“One issue seems to be she had a tendency to take a bath against advice – perhaps understandably someone with a busy life and family at home thought it’s something that wouldn’t happen to them.
“But sadly on this occasion evidence shows Gail drowned in the bath as a result of having a fit. This was an accidental death.”
Ms Wildon leaves children Melissa, Daniel, 17, Ryan, 12, and Lacey, 10.