Paralysed Manchester Arena bombing victim plans to climb Kilimanjaro

Martin Hibbert is aiming to raise £1m to help people with spinal injuries

Martin Hibbert, who is planning to climb Kilimanjaro in a specially adapted wheelchair. Photo: Martin's Mountain

When ISIS suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated his bomb during an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, Martin Hibbert suffered life-changing injuries.

He had taken his 14-year-old daughter to the concert and the pair were the closest people to the explosion — five metres — to have survived.

The bombing killed 22 people in May 2017 and injured more than 1,000.

“A bolt went straight through me, severed my spinal cord and left me paralysed below the waist,” he said.

“The NHS saved my life, but it was an amazing charity, the Spinal Injuries Association, which gave me the hope, confidence and practical skills to start again.

“I'll be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro using a specially adapted wheelchair with the team who helped save my life.”

Mr Hibbert was told he would never walk again and it was feared his daughter would not be able to see, hear or talk again.

He received care from spinal injury specialists and now wants to raise funds to help others achieve their potential.

The 45-year-old will be tackling one of his toughest challenges yet when he attempts to climb Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, to raise £1 million ($1.3m) for charity to support people with debilitating spinal injuries.

Martin Hibbert is planning to climb Kilimanjaro in specially adapted wheelchair. Photo: Martin's Mountain

“It’ll be the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he told The National.

“But climbing Kilimanjaro is only part of the story. My true ambition is to enable every spinal cord injured person to receive the specialist care and support they need to live the life they choose and reach their full potential.

“I want to start a movement that will create a better and fairer society for disabled people.”

His challenge will commence in six weeks when he and his team will cross dense rainforest, boulder fields and snow-capped peaks to reach the summit.

He will be using a custom-made handbike, using push-and-pull levers to navigate the terrain.

If he succeeds, it is believed he will be one of the first people to reach the top with a complete spinal cord injury.

“I want to do something to shift the spotlight away from those who tried to end my life towards those who helped me rebuild it,” he said.

“I want to raise £1m for the Spinal Injuries Association.

“Disabled people have to climb their own mountains every day, so I’ve decided to climb a real one. Too often the focus is on what disabled people can’t do, not what they can. I’m challenging that.

“I want to turn an appalling act of terrorism into the complete opposite — bringing people together in a spirit of hope.”

Abedi’s younger brother, Hashem, was jailed in 2020 for a minimum of 55 years after being convicted of 22 counts of murder for his role in helping his brother to prepare the Arena attack.

An inquiry is continuing to examine the circumstances surrounding the attack.

Updated: April 20, 2022, 12:05 PM