Alton Towers crash survivor Vicky Balch today reveals she has received a multi-million pound payout for her horrific injuries – after a wretched four years.
Vicky, who lost a leg in The Smiler ride smash, says her compensation quest was “stressful and depressing” and forced her to examine the difficulties and anxieties that lie ahead.
But securing the payout means she can at last breathe a sigh of relief. She says: “It’s like a weight has been lifted and I can finally get on with my life.”
The loved-up beautician can also turn her focus to her wedding next year to fiancé Dino Manciocchi.
Vicky, 24, got news of the payout last week when it was confirmed Merlin, owners of Alton Towers, would be settling her claim against them.
She says constantly having to give personal information was one of the worst parts of the process.
To fix a sum lawyers needed to state how many children Vicky hoped to have and discuss how her disability would impact the rest of her life.
Vicky says: “It’s hard being asked how many children you want, thinking about whether you’ll be able to use a prosthetic when you’re older, when you’ll be in a wheelchair.
“I was told the average life expectancy of someone with an amputation. I had to think about the help I’d need, even at the end of my life.
“It was really stressful and depressing. I had to face that this was going to be something I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life
“What normal 24-year-old has to think about any of that?
“When I got the payout, it made me realise that I had to live with this disability for ever. My life as a wife and mum will be so different now.
“Everything has to be planned out. I have to be careful with the money, I have to plan how much I need to keep away for later life and care.”
The stress caused Vicky sleepless nights and even phantom pains in her amputated leg. She tells of going to her solicitors Stewarts with Dino, 25, uncertain if a payout was on its way or if the process would drag on.
Vicky adds: “When I said I’d accept, it was such a massive weight lifted. It’s been four-and-a-half years.
I spent the next two days just sighing with relief. I kept saying to Dino, ‘It’s over, I can’t believe it’s all over’.”
Vicky was among 16 injured when a rollercoaster car hit an empty carriage stranded on the track at the Staffordshire theme park in June 2015. Alton Towers was fined £5million.
The payout is earmarked for a lifetime of physio, treatment and prosthetics. Artificial limbs can cost £80,000 each and need replacing every few years.
As well as physio, Vicky must attend specialist exercise classes just to feel normal. She goes on: “I don’t think I’m ever going to get real closure. I need to go to the same physio my entire life, the same appointments my entire life. But at least now I can live my life.
“People hear I’ve got money and think it must be like winning the lottery. It’s nothing like that. It’s all to go on treatment. People ask if I’m happy with it and it’s difficult to answer. No amount will give me my leg back or the life I would have had.”
Dino tells how he did his best to keep Vicky’s spirits up. He says: “I just wanted to be there for her, taking her mind off things. It was never going to be easy. There’s ups and downs in any relationship and this makes ours a bit more complicated.
“But we support each other. She sometimes says thanks when I don’t even notice I’ve done anything extra. I hope I get it right.
“I wanted to take her mind away from the case and put it in a nice place – wedding prep and marriage. Now we can focus fully on that.”
Vicky is thrilled to talk about the wedding and reveals: “We are getting married in Italy, an intimate ceremony with friends and family. I’ve got my wedding dress. Me, Dino’s mum and my best friends ended up crying.
“The dress helped me decide on a theme – it’s very fairytale. I want lots of candles and fairylights.”
Dino and Vicky got together in 2016 but have known each other for years as he is the brother of her best pal.
They live in Preston, Lancs, and Dino, who owns pizza oven company Valoriani, proposed last December at the Mottram Hall hotel in Cheshire.
He secretly scattered rose petals on the bed, filled their room with dozens of balloons and, on bended knee, handed Vicky a ring he had designed.
She says: “I couldn’t believe he was asking. I cried for five minutes. I didn’t click what it was until I saw the ring.”
Cruelly, Vicky has faced abuse on social media. She says: “One of the first messages was telling me I should have died. A lot of people tell me they’ve been on Smiler and survived.
I have a thicker skin and I’m better at laughing it off now. Me and Dino read them with a KFC and laugh.”
That ability to laugh shows how far Vicky has come after a long and traumatic journey. She still faces another operation – her 10th – and will eventually need a hip replacement.
But she sees a brighter future and says of her ’coaster hell: “It’s over now.”
Alton Towers’ owner Merlin Entertainments said: “We’re pleased to have reached a settlement and wish Vicky the very best for her wedding. Due to the complex nature of Vicky’s case, it was not possible to reach a settlement until now. Interim payments and support have been provided.”
Anna Wiseman, Senior Associate at Stewarts who represented Vicky Balch in the legal claim said: “No amount of money will ever be able to replace what Vicky has lost.
However I am extremely pleased that this settlement will provide financial security for her to help her live the rest of her life to the full and maximise her potential.
Vicky’s determination, courage and excellent approach to the tough challenges she has faced since the accident has been inspiring, she has a fantastic nature and with her forthcoming wedding is proof that life goes on after serious injury.”
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