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Young love lost after fatal Camp Pendleton training accident

Posted at 5:19 PM, May 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-27 22:48:39-04

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (KGTV) - Instead of planning for a wedding, loved ones of a Camp Pendleton marine were holding a funeral this Memorial Day weekend.

From the moment Kathleen Bourque met Conor McDowell off a dating app last summer in Washington D.C., it was electric.

"Insane, crazy, passionate ... He has a huge heart and always puts others before himself, and I was really drawn to that," said Kathleen.

Four days later, the graduate of The Citadel asked her to move to San Diego as he reported for duty at Camp Pendleton. She said yes. During the cross-country trip, she wondered aloud, 'What are we doing?'"

"He said, 'Kathleen, trust is a choice ... We're both insane, but at least we're insane together, and give them something to talk about," said Kathleen.

Together, they moved into an apartment in Cardiff and their love grew. Just before Conor, 24, left for a 10-day training maneuver earlier this month, he called his mother and told her the engagement ring made with grandma's diamond's was almost ready.

"He said,'When I return from maneuvers, I'm going to formally propose to Kathleen, I said that's so wonderful,'" said Susan Flanigan, Conor's mother.

That proposal would never happen. During an exercise at Camp Pendleton on May 9th, the light armored reconnaissance vehicle he was riding in flipper over, injuring six other Marines and killing Conor.

Conor's father, Michael McDonwell, says his son pushed another Marine into the vehicle to safety but couldn't save himself.

"It's devastating ... He was a person who lived his life to the fullest with great kindness, love and integrity," said Flanigan.

"I am shattered. My heart has been ripped out of my chest. I was his life and he was mine. I have lost a part of myself in losing him," said Kathleen.

This weekend, loved ones held a funeral in Conor's hometown in Maryland. The bagpipes he had wanted for his wedding played instead at his service.

"He was the strongest person I knew. He taught me how to find the strength I didn't know I even had," said Kathleen.

A memorial will be held at Camp Pendleton in early June, before a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Conor's parents say the ring he never got to give to Kathleen will be hers when it's ready.