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A survivor of the Manchester Arena terror attack has spoken exclusively to LAD TV about the terrifying moment Salman Abedi detonated his suicide vest. Martin Hibbert and his daughter Eve were just six metres away from the explosion, which killed everybody around them instantly.
On 22nd May 2017, thousands of people attended an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena where a suicide bomber, later revealed to be Salman Abedi, detonated a shrapnel-laden homemade bomb. 22 people died and many more were seriously injured.
Doctors have described Martin and Eve's survival as a miracle. "I shouldn't be here," said Martin. "I knew I wasn't in a good way. I was dying."
Describing the moment the bomb first went off, Martin said: "I just felt winded and... I didn't know it was a bomb. Initially I thought I'd been shot or stabbed, and I couldn't get my breath."
"I think I must have lost consciousness then because the next thing I know, I'm kind of lying on the floor and basically, like, gargling on blood and obviously I can see I'm losing a lot of blood," he said. "And then I see Eve's not in a good way."
It was at that moment Martin realised it was a terrorist attack.
"I've recently seen footage one second before detonation... It's taken me a while to get my head round it," he said. "To see that picture and then see the picture afterwards where, basically everyone around us is dead, and for some reason, me and Eve have survived."
Martin still struggles to understand why he and Eve lived to tell the tale. But he has a theory about the way they were standing when it happened having something to do with it.
"A lot of the people who died were facing frontwards, so they took the shrapnel, basically, all over the front of them," he explained. "Thankfully, we'd walked past, so we had our backs turned, and thankfully I was in front of Eve [so] I shielded Eve from the blast."
"I knew that if I closed my eyes I'd be dead." Ever a protective father, Martin was more concerned with getting his daughter out of the arena alive. "I just remember kind of saying to myself, 'you're not gonna make it. You've got one job to do now and that's make sure Eve gets out'," he said.
Martin had come to accept that he was going to die and added that he was so focussed on Eve, he felt "really calm and wasn't in any pain." He started to say his goodbyes and asked a security guard to tell his wife he loved her.
Tearing up, he told LAD TV: "I don't think people realise, like for your mind to go through that and your body to go through that, you know, to kinda make peace with yourself, and almost like an acceptance to the situation. I had to say, like, to people you don't know, to tell your wife you love her, and you don't think you're going to see anybody again. It's a tough thing. To accept that, it's a tough thing to go through."
The next thing Martin remembered was waking up in intensive care two weeks later. "I was sat up and awake and talking a couple of days later, but I don't remember that."
Martin sustained 22 shrapnel wounds. One piece hit him in the back and caused a severed spinal cord, which paralysed him from the belly button down. Another piece hit his neck and severed two arteries before he swallowed it and it was found in his stomach. Martin also had a number of shattered bones in his ankles and legs.
Martin said the medical staff called it a "miracle," with so many around him and Eve being killed instantly.
Martin's daughter sustained a brain injury and was touch-and-go for a while. When he went to visit her for the first time, doctors warned him that she'd probably be in a vegetative state.
"But I don't think they'd ever met a Hibbert before," he said "We don't like being told what to do."
"Now, she can see, she can hear. She speaks all the time, which is great. I had a great video a few weeks ago of her doing some walking unassisted," he said. "She's back at school now full-time. She'll probably need care for the rest of her life, but as I say, you'd take it, 'cause there's 22 families who'd take that tomorrow."
He added that he's grateful to be alive. "I shouldn't be here... So I just think it's a crime for me not to live life to the full."
This doesn't mean Martin doesn't have his bad days, though. "The Martin that you see in front of you now isn't the one that went to the arena that night," he said.
"The life that I knew and the life that I had kind of ended that night. It affects every aspect of life.
"I think people look at me and think, 'poor guy, he can't walk,' but actually you get your head round that pretty quick. It's everything else that kind of stays hidden, that you don't see."
Martin has constant flashbacks to the attack. "It's probably the first thing and last thing I think of every day."
You can catch the full interview with Martin Hibbert on our YouTube channel.
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