A Catterall mum has spoken of how she and her four daughters are trying to rebuild their lives after the tragic death of her husband just four months ago.
Mark Buckley, 51, a physical education officer at Garth Prison in Leyland, was cycling through the Trough of Bowland in September on a route he had used hundreds of times before when he failed to negotiate a bend.
He suffered catastrophic injuries after falling from his bike and died soon after arriving at the Royal Preston Hospital, where his wife, Sharon (48), was at work as a health care assistant in the paediatrics department.
Sharon says: “Mark was the only male in a female household and there is a gaping hole now he has gone.
“He was always so sporty and loved doing activities with the girls.
“Mark was a very strong character and he always looked after the girls.
“I just want our daughters to be happy. I am not the strongest of characters, but I am the one who has to look after them now.
“We miss Mark so much, but our girls are determined to carry on and make him so proud of them.
“I know Mark would be so proud of our daughters for being so strong.”
Samantha, 22, is a nurse. Katie, 20, is at Preston College studying English and sociology, Charlotte, 18, is at Lancaster Grammar School and is hoping to study pharmacy at university and youngest daughter Ginny attends Garstang Academy.
Hearing the helicopter landing on the hospital heli-pad was a frequent occurrence for Sharon and she admitted that she had got used to it.
But on the fateful day in September, only a short while after hearing the helicopter landing at the hospital Sharon became aware that this time the implications were personal and lasting.
She recalls: “I was at work when the sister came to get me and she put her hand on my hand.
“I instantly started thinking: ‘What’s wrong?’ and my heart was thudding as I followed her to another room.
“They asked me if my husband, Mark, had been out riding his bike and if he had been wearing cycling gear.
“They then gently told me that someone had been killed and that they thought it was Mark and asked me to identify him.
“I was absolutely hysterical when they told me. I just kept saying: ‘I can’t believe it’.
“You find yourself going into such a state of shock that it does not hit home at all. It is like a bad dream.”
Sharon then faced the difficult task of telling her four daughters, who all idolised their dad, about the tragedy.
“Mark absolutely adored his girls. They were his whole life. He was such a hands on dad and did so many things sports wise with them,” she said.
“Telling them their fit and healthy dad had suddenly died was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
Mark’s death came after years of heartache for the family after daughter Katie, now 20, battled leukaemia.
She was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia at the age of 16 after feeling run down and suffering from mouth ulcers.
She had intensive chemotherapy and managed to beat the disease – only to suffer a relapse a few years later.
Her only chance was a bone marrow transplant and all three of her sisters were tested as potential donors.
The only match was then 11-year-old Ginny, who bravely endured having 11 holes drilled in her hips so her bone marrow could be extracted and given to Katie.
After years of gruelling treatment, Katie made a great recovery, although she still faces six-monthly tests for another two years.
Mark was a keen sportsman and had completed four Iron Man triathlons as well as a large number of cycle rides.
Many of the sporting challenges he took part in were for charities including the Anthony Nolan Trust and Leukaemia Research, in recognition of daughter Katie’s fight with leukaemia.
As well as having a love for cycling, Mark was a team coach at Garstang Gymnastics Club, a member of Garstang Cycling Club and a former player at Garstang Rugby Club.
Sharon says all four of her girls miss their dad a great deal. However, they are all battling on and want to make their dad proud.
Sharon says: “The girls feel really sad about losing their dad, but we are all plodding on. Katie adored her dad and she is just glad she got the chance to travel all over New Zealand last year on a holiday with him funded by the charities Dreams Come True and Promised Dreams.
“Katie is currently trying to get a part-time job, but is finding it difficult because no one wants to take her on ~ because she has no experience. Ginny is like a little lost soul without her dad.
“Ginny turned 15 just two weeks after her dad died and Katie was 20 just days later on September 12.
“Mark’s accident happened on a Thursday and on the following Saturday we were going to have two weeks off together and had been planning to go to Whitby for a few days.”
Just before his death, Mark had been in training for a half marathon with daughter Sam at Lancaster in October and she ran the race alongside his friends and work colleagues.
Sam and sisters Katie and Charlotte also took part in the Brooks Hell Runner in November, which is a run through mud, in honour of their dad.
Sharon says: “It was such a shock to suddenly lose Mark,especially after everything we had been through with Katie’s illness.
“His death was so hard to accept, as it came completely out of the blue.
“Mark was such a proficient cyclist that I never worried about him being out on his bike. It was just a freak accident and happened on a route he was so familiar with.”
Sharon says she and her daughters get some solace from the fact that Mark died while doing something he loved and in the place he loved more than anywhere else.
The prisoners at Garth Prison are building a bench in memory of Mark and this will be placed at Dunsop Bridge, near to where he died.
Sharon says: “We just hope all the bad luck and misfortune is now behind us.
“The girls have already been through so much in their lives. Four months before Katie’s leukaemia diagnosis, their grandad died of cancer. He was my dad and he lived with us ,so it was really hard for them.
“A few weeks ago, Ginny admitted that she was frightened of anyone leaving the house, as she was worried something might happen to them.”