Family pay tribute to man who drowned in Preston park pond

Beth Kendall with Steve Wardle
Beth Kendall with Steve Wardle
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The family of a father of two who drowned in a Preston park have paid tribute to ‘a great and very cheerful man’ who ‘inspired a lot of people’.

Preston Coroners’ Court heard yesterday how personal trainer Steve Wardle, of Plumpton Road, Ashton-on-Ribble, died after drowning in a Haslam Park pond on Monday, July 9 last year.

The 31-year-old, born in Blackpool and formerly of Lytham, was found by officers from Lancashire Police around 5.30am after leaving his home some seven and a half hours earlier for a run.

The inquest heard how there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Steve’s death and that it was determined he had died quickly.

Speaking afterwards, partner Beth Kendall said: “The closure that Steven wasn’t in pain and passed quickly and peacefully was nice to hear.

“He will always be close to my heart and I will miss him dearly for the rest of my life.”

Steve had left his home around 10pm on Sunday, July 8 for a run ahead of a taxi arriving at 2am on Monday for the couple’s planned holiday in Greece.

After failing to return home, Beth contacted Lancashire Police who carried out a search, which included Haslam Park, but could not find him.

Officers returned to the park at first light around 5.30am and found Steve’s body in the reeds of a park pond. Steve’s mum, Diane Wardle, said: “He was a very popular lad; a very caring person.

“He gave 100 per cent to everything that he ever did.

“He had lots of friends and was a really sociable guy. He thought the world of his family.”

Diane added: “I think what was really valuable about the inquest was that we know he did not suffer.”

Dad Leon Wardle, 62, from Blackpool, said: “Steve was a great and very cheerful man. He inspired a lot of people and made a lot of friends a long the way.

Leon added how former Arnold School pupil Steve was “always into sports growing up; in the rugby and football teams” before making a living in his passion after studying Sports Studies and Development at the University of Salford, from which he obtained a First Class honours degree.

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.

Det Insp 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.

In his conclusion, he said: “Steven James Wardle was found dead in a pond in Haslam Park, Preston, on July 9, 2018. Although how he came to be in the water cannot be ascertained. I can only repeat my condolences.”

Steve was father to son Harry, 12, and daughter Eloise, three.

A total of £3,000 has been raised for the two children to help safeguard their future.

Bench fund

Plans are under way to bring a memorial bench to Haslam Park in memory of Steve Wardle.

Steve’s girlfriend Beth Kendall is behind the plans with the park chosen as the perfect location due to his appreciation for the place.

Beth said: “I have started a JustGiving page to raise money to have a bench put in Haslam Park as a tribute to Steven.

“We are currently trying to finalise the funds.”

A target of £700 has been set on the bench’s JustGiving page, with more than £400 raised since July last year.

Beth added: “The bench will be a place where all of his family, friends and loved ones can visit to remember his gorgeous soul, and have some comfort whenever they need it.

“Ste visited Haslam Park a lot, he thought it was very peaceful and beautiful, so it would be a lovely thing to do knowing how much he enjoyed it there.”

To donate to the bench fund visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stevens-bench-1