The actor - best known as the Street’s Ken Barlow - lost his 50-year-old daughter Vanya earlier this year, and he has now opened up about his heartbreak at missing his chance to say goodbye.
Bill told The Mirror of how he crashed his car in the snow while travelling from Manchester to Chichester while Vanya was dying from a long-term liver condition.
Having stopped off in London to pick up son Will, they were just 15 minutes away from the hospital when the car crashed.
Bill explained: “There was snow all over the place. The sat-nav took us down a country road which went downhill and curved.
“The car just went straight on, smashed a sign, went over a traffic island and hit a hedgerow, smashing the whole front of the car. It was 10.30pm. Recovery said they couldn’t get out for five hours. By the time I got to her it was too late.”
Bill described the pain of losing a child as “unbearable”, admitting he had a feeling of guilt.
“To not be able to say goodbye to Vanya was awful,” he said. “But I take some comfort in now knowing she is in a better place and at peace. I like to think about the happier times we had.
“Your children going before you is horrendous. You’re responsible for your children. There’s a feeling of guilt. If your children die you feel you shouldn’t have let that happen.”
Vanya’s death was the third family loss to hit the 85-year-old star following the death of his second wife Sara Mottram in 2009 at the age of 58. The couple’s daughter Edwina also died from pneumonia aged 18 months in 1984.
Bill’s first wife, Anne Cooper, was mother to Vanya and their actor son Linus. Bill also has two other children from his marriage to Sara - a daughter named Verity, and actor James Roache, who was christened William.