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Lee said, 'Dad, we'll do this together'.

Byline: By ROBIN TURNER Western Mail

A father yesterday relived the moment when a freak wave capsized a fishing boat, trapping him and his 17-year-old son - who then disappeared. Seconds earlier, mechanic Steve Wood, 38, of Plasmarl, Swansea, and son Lee were enjoying a fishing trip on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Llangennith Bay off Gower.

Mr Wood and his son struggled to prevent themselves being smashed against the upturned inside of the 14ft Octopussy as they kept their heads inside an air pocket.

The owner of the boat, 36-year- old Dean Collier, also of Plasmarl, was clinging to the hull having been knocked clear by the wave.

Mr Wood said that after a minute or so he and his son realised it was too dangerous to stay under the boat.

Having donned lifejackets in the air pocket they decided to dive downwards hoping to emerge outside the capsized vessel.

Mr Wood said, 'I remember Lee grabbing my arm and saying 'Dad, we'll do this together'.

'I remember Lee letting go of my arm. I saw a light and I swam towards it.'

Mr Wood surfaced but Lee remained trapped.

Surfer 17-year-old Sam Barton of Dunvant, Swansea, helped shocked Mr Wood to Llangennith Beach around 50 yards away.

Mr Collier, who remained clinging to the boat, continued to hear Lee speaking to him from the airpocket.

He said, 'Lee was only concerned about his father. He asked if he was all right and I told him he had made it to shore.'

The upturned boat, which was drifting towards shore, was righted with teenager Sam Barton's help but Lee was nowhere to be seen.

Mr Wood told an inquest yesterday how he could only watch 'feeling helpless' from the beach as a major sea and air search for Lee was mounted.

His son's body was not discovered until almost a month later, when it was seen floating near rocks at Burry Holms, a short distance from where the accident happened.

For weeks after the accident Mr Wood, together with family and friends, scoured beaches on Gower looking for signs of him.

Lee, an apprentice auto fitter with CEM Day's of Swansea, had to be identified by DNA comparison to his father, because his body had been in the water so long. The body had been spotted by a walker.

Swansea and Gower Coroner Philip Rogers recorded an accidental death verdict on Lee yesterday.

After hearing from marine safety consultant Jeff Hales that Mr Collier's boat had been adequately equipped and was more than adequate for inshore fishing, the coroner said, 'It was a tragic accident. No-one can be blamed for Lee's death.'

The coroner singled out student Sam for praise for his 'brave actions'.

After rescuing Mr Wood, the teenager swam back to the capsized boat and dived beneath it catching sight of Lee.

He said, 'I knew the boy was down there. I tried to pull him out but he would not come. I presume he was stuck or caught on something.

'I had to surface because there was not much air down there,' he added.

The teenager then helped Mr Collier right the boat but Lee was not in it.

Andrew Richards, another surfer who was praised for helping after the accident, said yesterday he and others at the beach looked in the surf for Lee but he could not be found.

Coroner Mr Rogers agreed with Mr Hales that the fishing party was in the 'wrong place at the wrong time'.

Pathologist Anthony Griffiths said the cause of death was unascertainable because of body decomposition.: Lifejacket may not have helped son swim clear:Marine safety consultant Jeff Hales examined the blue and white Octopussy after the accident. He said it was probably better than most inshore fishing boats. And he said that, ironically, the decision by Mr Wood and his son to don lifejackets under the boat could have contributed to the tragedy.

He said he did not blame the three anglers for not wearing lifejackets, given the relatively calm and sunny weather conditions.

He said putting the bulky buoyancy aids on beneath the boat would not have helped them swim clear.

The wave which capsized the boat was described by owner Mr Collier yesterday as a 'rolling carpet'. He said, 'It did not break the surface and seemed to hit the boat from underneath. 'I remember hearing a bang and I was thrown out.'
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 4, 2005
Words:738
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