When Mark Buckley died suddenly in a freak cycling accident, his wife and daughters were shocked and devastated. His wife Sharon talks about the tragedy and why the houseful of women feel like there is now a gaping hole in their lives.
Hearing the sound of the air ambulance landing at the Royal Preston Hospital was a noise Sharon Buckley was all too familiar with.
As a healthcare assistant working in the paediatrics department, hearing the helicopter landing on the hospital heli-pad was a frequent occurrence for Sharon and she admits after a while, you tend to get used to it.
The 48-year-old mum-of-four who lives in Catterall, near Garstang, explains: “When you hear the air ambulance at work, you feel a sense of dread because you know that someone on board is seriously injured.
“However, after a while, you get used to it and the implications of what it means do not really sink in.”
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 them 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 could I come and 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.” she says. “They were his whole life. He was such a hands on dad and did so many things sports wise with them.
“Telling them their fit and healthy dad had suddenly died was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
Mark, 51, who was a physical education officer at Garth Prison in Leyland, was cycling through the Trough of Bowland on a route he had cycled 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.
Mark’s death came after years of heartache for the family after his 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 had 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, who 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 charity 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, 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.
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 while youngest daugter Ginny is at Garstang Academy.
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 on a holiday with him last year which was 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 turned 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.
“On the morning of the day Mark died, he woke me up at 6am and asked what we were going to get the girls for their birthdays.
“But I told him I had another half-hour in bed and that we would discuss it that evening.
“However, we never got the chance to speak again and we never made it to Whitby.”
Just before his death, Mark had been in training for a half marathon with daughter Sam in October in Lancaster 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: “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.
“After he died, Sam said: ‘Who is going to pick my trainers now?’
“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.
“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.
“Then for the last few years, we have been through the turmoil of Katie’s diagnosis and treatment.
“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 where he loved more than anywhere else.
The prisoners at Garth Prison are building a bench in memory of Mark which will be put up at Dunsop Bridge near where he died.
Sharon says: “Everyone says ‘how can one family have so many tragedies?’
“We just hope all the bad luck and misfortune is now behind us.
“A few weeks ago, Ginny admitted that she was frightened of anyone leaving the house as she was worried something might happen to them.
“Mark always said that when he died, he wanted his ashes scattered at Dunsop Bridge and ironically, this ended up being the place near where he died.
“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.”