(CTV News Edmonton) — Pat L’Hirondelle can’t believe his wife and best friend, Debbie, is gone.
“I keep saying to myself I’m going to close my eyes and put myself in a moment with her and I don’t want to open them,” he said. “I know her love and mine has always been forever. She’ll always be in my heart.”
The couple last visited Maui for their 25th anniversary and enjoyed it so much, they decided to go back for their 30th anniversary.
They arrived on the island two weeks ago and, three days into their trip, headed to the beach for some snorkeling.
“I told her, ‘I’m getting tired. I’m going to head back,’ and she said, ‘Okay, I’m right behind you.'”
L’Hirondelle says he was swimming toward the shore. Minutes later, he turned around to check on his wife.
“I looked and I thought, oh my God, she’s upside down. She’s floating,” he recalled.
Bystanders helped bring her to shore. Paramedics performed CPR for more than 40 minutes before L’Hirondelle had to give them permission to stop.
“I held her hand and I cried. I looked at her hands and said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I told her, ‘Don’t leave me,'” L’Hirondelle said in tears.
That was Aug. 24, five days before their actual anniversary.
L’Hirondelle called his wife’s drowning a freak accident.
“I asked the coroner, if you would’ve taken water in your mouth accidentally then panicked and hyperventilate, he said absolutely. That’s exactly what happened,” he said.
L’Hirondelle is hoping people will hear her story and practice more caution.
“When you’re swimming, be aware of your surroundings as best as you can,” he said.
While he’s still struggling with what he’ll do without his partner, L’Hirondelle is doing his best to keep her memory alive.
“I could not have asked for anyone better in my life to have met,” he said.
The couple has two sons, Jared, 25, and Cole, 16.
L’Hirondelle says they’re managing one day at a time.
“There’s another angel up there now, and I keep saying to myself, she’s a beautiful angel,” he said.