A teenage girl who was presumed dead and covered with T-shirts in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing made a “miracle” recovery despite her devastating injuries, an inquiry has heard.
Martin Hibbert, 44, was standing with his daughter, Eve, then 14, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest about five metres away at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.
Hibbert suffered 22 shrapnel wounds, including one that severed his spinal cord. He shielded Eve from the blast but one bolt struck her in the head, causing a significant brain injury “almost like she had been shot through the head,” he told a public inquiry into the attack on Thursday.
He said he looked towards his daughter in the aftermath of the explosion 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, with people presuming she was dead. He 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 you could see that.
“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.”
The inquiry heard that it was nearly two hours after the blast before Hibbert and Eve were taken by ambulance to separate hospitals, a delay he described as “baffling”.
Eve, now 18, was at Royal Manchester children’s hospital for 10 months, where her family were told that she would probably never again be able to see, hear, speak or move.
However, she had made a “miracle” recovery and was able to see, hear, talk and eat. “We believe she is the only person to survive that injury in the world,” he said. “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.”
Hibbert, who uses a wheelchair, said his daughter would need care for the rest of her life and that her mother, Sarah, had had to give up her job to be her full-time carer. “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,” he said.