A survivor of the Manchester Arena terror attack has told how he ‘made peace’ with dying as he lay on the ground next to his teenage daughter after being struck by shrapnel from the suicide bomb.
Martin Hibbert, from Lancashire, suffered 22 wounds including one which hit the centre of his back and totally severed his spinal cord, leaving him paralysed from the waist down.
His daughter Eve, then 14, suffered a severe shrapnel wound to the head which has left her in need of lifelong care.
The father and daughter were standing some 19ft (6m) away from Salman Abedi when he detonated his suicide bomb in the City Room foyer at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017. The attack claimed the lives of 22 people.
Speaking to LADBible, Mr Hibbert, who now uses a wheelchair, fought back tears as he recalled how he spent an hour in the aftermath of the attack thinking he would die.
Hours before disaster: Manchester Arena survivor Martin Hibbert had bought VIP tickets to see US pop star Ariana Grande as a surprise Christmas present for his teenage daughter, Eve. The pair, pictured at dinner before the concert, suffered life-changing injuries in the attack
On the brink of death: Speaking to LADBible, Mr Hibbert fought back tears as he recalled how he spent an hour in the aftermath of the attack thinking he would die from shrapnel wounds
‘A lot of people were worried for me because they thought I was in loads of pain, and scared, but I wasn’t. I was really calm and I wasn’t in any pain,’ he said.
‘I was literally just concentrating on Eve and my breathing. I knew that if I panicked I would probably lose more blood. Just to be thinking of things like that when you’re dying is crazy. There was an acceptance that I probably wasn’t going to make it.
‘I said to Chris the security guard that was with me, “tell my wife I love her”.’
Gathering himself, he continued: ‘I don’t think people understand, for your mind to go through that and for your body to go through that, to make peace with yourself, and almost like an acceptance to a situation.
‘And to have to say to people you don’t know “tell your wife you love her”. You don’t think you’re going to see anybody again.
‘To accept that, it’s a tough thing to go through and that’s why I’m dead happy now to be alive. For an hour, to have to go through that and to fight, and be alone, and scared, it was awful.’
Suicide bomber: The father and daughter were standing some 15ft (5m) away from Salman Abedi, pictured on the night of the attack, when he detonated his suicide bomb in the City Room foyer at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017, killing 22 people
Near miss: Many of the victims who died had been facing towards Abedi, while Mr Hibbert and Eve had their backs to him because they had walked past him on their way out of the venue
Preparing to strike: CCTV image of Salman Abedi arriving at Manchester Arena, on May 22, 2017, where he detonated his bomb. Mr Hibbert says it is a ‘miracle’ he and Eve survived
Mr Hibbert had bought VIP tickets to see US pop star Ariana Grande as a surprise Christmas present for his teenage daughter.
They had left the venue during her encore to miss the rush of the crowd and were crossing the foyer when Abedi detonated a homemade nail bomb.
‘I just felt winded. I didn’t know it was a bomb. Initially I thought I had been shot or stabbed and I couldn’t get my breath. I panicked, I thought, “s**t, what is going on”. I couldn’t breathe.
‘I must have lost conscious then because the next thing I know I am on the floor and gargling on blood and I can see I’m losing a lot of blood. I see Eve is not in a good way. That’s when I probably knew, just from what’s going on in the room that it’s obviously a bomb.
‘I’ve recently seen footage one second before detonation. It’s taken me a while to get my head around it. To see that picture and then see that picture afterwards where basically everyone around us is dead and me and Eve have survived. It’s a lot to get your head around.’
Determined: Mr Hibbert, pictured giving evidence to the Manchester Arena Inquiry, said the man he used to be died that night in the Manchester Arena but he feels lucky to be alive
Many of the victims who died had been facing towards Abedi, while Mr Hibbert and Eve had their backs to him because they had walked past him on their way out of the venue.
‘We had our backs turned and thankfully, I was in front of Eve,’ he continued. ‘I covered Eve so thankfully I shielded Eve from the blast. I knew I wasn’t in a good way, I knew I was dying, I knew I was losing a lot of blood.
‘I remember saying to myself: “You’re not going to make it. You’ve got one job to do now and that’s to make sure Eve gets out”. I knew that if I closed my eyes, I would be dead, just from the amount of blood I was losing.’
He would later learn he had been struck 22 separate times by bolts ricocheting from the homemade device, including one that went through the right side of his neck and severed arteries and another that tore through his spinal cord.
‘They’ve said it’s a miracle [that we survived] given how close we were,’ Mr Hibbert said. ‘People died. Everyone around us died pretty much instantly. Nobody can explain it.’
The father and daughter were taken to hospital where they spent five months and 10 months, respectively.
‘They didn’t really tell me about Eve [at the beginning],’ he recalled.
‘They just kept saying she was alive because she was very much touch-and-go for quite a while, just because she had a very significant brain injury. One bolt got through and went through her head. They didn’t think she was going to make it.
‘I don’t have any recollection of it but apparently I was asking all the time and it was just, “yes, she’s alive but you’ve just got to concentrate on yourself for now”. You can’t really say that to a dad because it’s what you live for.’
Next adventure: The father-of-one is in training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Spinal Injuries Association. Pictured, in the custom-built handbike he will use for the climb
Mr Hibbert, who is in training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Spinal Injuries Association, said the man he used to be died that night in the Manchester Arena.
‘The life that I knew and the life that I had ended that night,’ he said. ‘It affects every way of life. I think people look at me and think, “poor guy, can’t walk”. But actually you get your head around that pretty quick. It’s everything else that kind of stays hidden that you don’t see. That’s the upsetting bit.’
Doctors initially feared Eve would be left in a ‘vegetative state’ due to the brain injury but she has defied the odds and is now back at school full time.
Mr Hibbert added: ‘I don’t think they’d ever met a Hibbert before. We don’t like being told what to do. She can see, she can hear, she speaks all the time, which is great.
‘I had a great video a few weeks back of her walking unassisted. She’s back at school full time, she goes to a different school. She’ll probably need care for the rest of her life, but you take it because there are 22 families that would take that tomorrow.’
Click here to donate to Mr Hibbert’s Kilimanjaro fundraiser.