'You can climb a mountain': Manchester Arena survivor hopes to inspire wheelchair users

"Look at what somebody in a wheelchair can do when they have the right support - they can literally climb a mountain," Martin Hibbert tells ITV News


A Manchester Arena attack survivor left paralysed from the waist down has set himself the goal of climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro to prove what disabled people can achieve when they receive the right care.

Martin Hibbert and his daughter Eve, then 14, were just five metres away when a suicide bomb was detonated by terrorist Salman Abedi at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

They both survived the tragedy but were left with life-changing injuries. The father - who was the survivor stood closest to the bomb - suffered 22 shrapnel wounds, including one that hit the centre of his back and severed his spinal cord.

Now, more than four years on, Mr Hibbert has taken his first steps and hopes to inspire others with spinal chord injuries that with a "bit of help and support, everything is possible".

Mr Hibbert, a trustee for the Spinal Injuries Association, is planning to climb Kilimanjaro early next June with two Salford Royal Hospital nurses who helped him recover following the attack, along with his two best friends.

He hopes to get to the summit with the aid of the XO Skeleton, a robotic frame that can help people with spinal injuries to walk, and raise £1 million for charity in the process.

Mr Hibbert told ITV News that he does not want the challenge to be about him, or even the Manchester Arena attack, but he wants to call on policymakers to offer better care for disabled people because, he says, they are "being let down by the British Government".

"I want there to be a movement behind it, where I can say look at what somebody in a wheelchair can do when they have the right care and support, they can literally climb a mountain," he said.

"I want the legacy to be that everybody that has a spinal chord injury gets the same care and support I had, not because they live in a certain postcode, but because it's their human right."

He added: "I want to inspire others that are being told today that they're not going to walk again, that actually if you think right and you have the confidence to live a life, you can do it.


"It brought a tear to my eye. I forgot how tall I am - I'm 6ft" - Mr Hibbert talks about the moment he walked for the first time in four years


"You might need an adaption, a bit of help and support, but everything is possible just with the right attitude."

Speaking of the moment he took his first steps in four years, Mr Hibbert described it as "amazing" and "emotional".

He said: "It brought a tear to my eye because I forgot how tall I am - I'm 6ft."

The father said it "took a couple of attempts to get it right" with the aid of the XO Skeleton but once he got the hang of it, he was walking for at least an hour.

"Mentally I just felt free, it gives your body that - remember this? This is what your body was like," he added.

Experts are still trying to determine whether the battery-powered device will be able to withstand the -40C temperatures at the top of one of the world's highest mountains.

He will be joined on the trek by his nurses Stuart Wildman, head of trauma at Salford Royal and physiotherapist, Caroline Abbott, who helped him to move when he was completely paralysed following the attack.

Mr Hibbert added: "To be able to walk to the summit with the people that saved my life... they've seen me at my worst, so to see me at my best and to reach the summit, even if it was just a few steps, to be able to do that walking would be amazing."