David Holmes was the stunt double for Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 to the first instalment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2009.
Then, when he was 27, and rehearsing a scene for the Deathly Hallows, a film set explosion went wrong.
Holmes was flying in the air when he was thrown into a wall and pulled back by a high-strength wire, breaking his neck. According to an article in The Mirror at the time, Holmes laid on the ground, conscious, before telling his colleagues, “I can’t feel my legs”.
Speaking to the same publication in 2014, Holmes recalled, “I hit the wall and then landed on the crash mat underneath”.
“My stunt co-ordinator grabbed my hand and said, ‘Squeeze my fingers’. I could move my arm to grab his hand but I couldn’t squeeze his fingers.
“I looked into his eyes and that’s when I realised what happened was major.”
He was rushed to hospital by paramedics, and there he was told he would be paralysed for life from the waist down.
"My first thought was, ‘Don’t ring Mum and Dad, I don’t want to worry them,’" Holmes said. “My first thoughts weren’t about not being able to walk again. It was all the other stuff, like not being able to dance again or have sex.”
The gymnast-turned-stuntman said it was a massive shock, going from being an adrenaline junkie to not being able to move.
"I have gone from being able to stand on my hands for half an hour at a time and then all of a sudden I can’t sit up in bed," Holmes said.
Initially, he was convinced that despite his prognosis he'd return to his stunt work and make a full recovery. But soon the severity of his condition became clear. For the next nine months, he laid in a hospital bed.
The next five years were debilitating, as he relied on two full time carers. But now, Holmes lives in a multi-million dollar custom-built home, designed to allow him to live on his own terms.
He says being positive is still the most crucial thing for him.
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"If you’re positive about your disability then it can help you live with it.
“I haven’t let my accident affect my outlook on life and I am still very determined and positive.
“I also haven’t let it hold me back in life and I still enjoy track days racing my car, going on holidays with my friends and am now looking forward to starting a new career.”
Daniel Radcliffe visited Holmes whilst he was still in hospital and also hosted a celebrity charity auction to raise funds to help pay Holmes' medical bills.
“It was an amazing experience," Holmes added. "I loved it and Dan [Radcliffe] was an absolute pleasure to work with. The cast and crew were like a second family and I remain in touch with a lot of them to this day.”