Chorley dad shares story of his daughter's "miracle survival" at Manchester Arena bombing
A teenage girl presumed dead and covered over with T-shirts and posters in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing went on to make a “miracle” recovery, an inquiry has heard.
Martin Hibbert, 44, fell to the ground with his daughter, Eve, then aged 14, as suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated his suicide bomb around five metres away in the City Room foyer at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.
Mr Hibbert, from Chorley Lancashire, suffered 22 shrapnel wounds including one which hit the centre of his back and totally severed his spinal cord, the public inquiry into the May 2017 terror attack.
He said where he was standing had meant he shielded Eve from the blast but one bolt got past him and struck her which caused a “very significant” brain injury, “almost like she had been shot through the head”.
Giving evidence on Thursday, he said as he lay next to her he looked over and “one moment she was there, I could see her and the next minute she was fully covered”.
He said he witnessed her head being covered up on two occasions.
Mr Hibbert said: “It was obvious people thought she had died but, given that I was close to her, I could see even though I knew she was dying she was still breathing and and you could see that, it was almost gasping for breath.
“So it was not like you are ‘asleep’, breathing where you could maybe get it mixed up.
“You could see her lips quivering and really gasping for breath.
“That was always a big frustration of mine that, if I had lost consciousness, Eve wouldn’t be here.”
He added: “People were looking at her injury and saying that it was not survivable and they just covered her up even though she was alive and they weren’t qualified to make that kind of choice.
“Even if they were, you do your damnedest to ensure survivability and preservation of life.
“You don’t make that decision yourself and walk away.
“I don’t think I will ever get my head around that.
“I have spoken to medics and other emergency professionals and they can’t believe that has happened.”
It was up to an hour before they were moved out of the City Room and up to another hour before Mr Hibbert and his daughter were taken to separate hospitals.
Mr Hibbert said: “Given her injuries it’s just baffling why she was not put into an ambulance straightaway from the City Room and again it’s just a miracle she is still with us given the extent of her injuries …the fact we are still in the vicinity nearly two hours later, there are just no words for it.”
The football agent said he owed his life to paramedic Paul Harvey who went against instructions to take him to Wythenshawe Hospital and instead headed to Salford Royal Hospital, a shorter journey, where a major trauma unit was based.
He told the inquiry that Eve, now 18, was at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for 10 months.
He said: “I have recently been told that the coroner actually was ringing Eve’s ward every day.
“We believe she is the only person to survive that injury in the world.
“There has been a paper written on her, so if anybody else suffers that injury they know how to care for them and get them through it.
“Initially, when I first saw her, I was told she would probably be in a vegetative state, she probably wouldn’t be able to see, hear, speak, move.
“She probably wouldn’t have any memory.
“I think what the medics didn’t realise is that they were dealing with a Hibbert and we are a bit stubborn.
“She can see, she can hear, she can now talk, she is eating.
“I have got a beautiful video that I’d love to show you one day of her actually walking now unassisted, she makes me proud every day.”
Mr Hibbert said his daughter would need care for the rest of her life and that Eve’s mother, Sarah, had to give up her job to be her full-time carer.
He said: “But she is still there, it’s still Eve, she is still alive and I keep telling her she will inspire the world when she is ready to do it.
"She is a little princess."
Mr Hibbert, who is confined to a wheelchair, went on: “I am just thankful to be alive and to be here so I’ll take it because I know there are 22 families that weren’t so lucky.”
He said it was adding “insult to our injury” for the families of the deceased and survivors that medals had been given to “certain professionals where the evidence shows their professional and moral duty was not acted upon appropriately”.
He stated: “When the inquiry ends myself, my daughter, her mum and my wife will still be living our forever changed realities.
“Over four years on I have yet to have my home adapted to better cope with my injuries.
“I am lucky that I am a relatively young man and have good upper body strength but I still have ongoing complications and I fear how my life will change as I age, and my daughter also needs lifelong care.”