REAL LIFE

Newlywed blows himself up on honeymoon

Levi’s new bride was watching as a horrifying accident unfolded
Feature image picturing man before and after his accident with a fireworkSupplied
  • Tying the knot just five days earlier, Levi Stanford, 31, was on his honeymoon when the unthinkable happened. 
  • Obsessed with fireworks and
pyrotechnics, Levi couldn’t wait to show off his latest explosive experiment.
  • Watching from the side lines, new bride, Amy watched on as the firework went off in his hands.

    Here Levi tells his story in his own words

Holding a handful of toilet paper, I struck the lighter I’d found in the garage and watched it go up in flames. Aged seven, I was mesmerised.

Growing up in a small town, my eight siblings and I were always finding new ways to make mischief.

Throwing flour onto a campfire, seeing the quick explosion was exhilarating. 

Aged 16, I made a flame thrower using a water gun, but accidentally set our backyard firewood pile alight.

‘Let me show you my explosive first!’

‘You have to be more careful,’ my parents Roy and Linda warned.

But I was obsessed, and started buying explosives when I was older.

In July 10, 2015, when I was 23, my luck ran out.

After tying the knot with my beautiful wife Amy, then 22, just five days earlier, we were honeymooning at home and celebrating with family.

Man who blows himself up, wearing his prosthetic limb
Me with my spatula arm attachment

‘We should do something fun,’ my brother Nephi, then 29, suggested.

‘Let’s go bridge jumping!’ I suggested.

There were two abandoned train tracks going across a deep reservoir of water just outside of town. We’d jumped off them before and it was so much fun.

I also wanted to show off the new explosive I’d made.

The plan was to light a blasting cap – or a detonator – throw it into the waterproof container filled with 900 grams of a powerful explosive, then screw on the lid and throw it into the reservoir. When it went off, a huge geyser of water would erupt.

‘No, no, no, this can’t be happening.’

Amy, Nephi, his wife Andrea, then 24, my sister Tanya, then 43, and her 15-year-old daughter Jessica drove to the tracks with me.

‘Let me show you my explosive first!’ I said, as we hopped out of the ute.

Everyone stood up on the bridge as I made my way down to the riverside.

While Nephi filmed with his phone, I knelt down, lit the fuse, placed it in the container and screwed on the lid. Holding the explosive in my left hand ready to throw it into the water, suddenly – BOOM!

The force of the blast threw me backwards, and left me feeling as though I’d been hit by a bus.

Photo of the abandoned train tracks bridge and resevoir
The bridge where my accident happened (Credit: Supplied)

Disoriented and lying on my back, my ears rang.

Am I dead? I wondered.

Then an incredible pain roared through my body, violently reminding me I was alive.

In the distance I could hear the muffled screams of my family.

‘Do I still have my face?’

Terrifyingly, looking down I could only see out of my right eye. My body was peppered with shrapnel wounds.

And then I saw it…

‘No, no, no, this can’t be happening,’ I panicked.

With blood gushing, I realised my left hand was gone. I’d accidentally blown myself up – and my new bride had seen the entire horrifying ordeal.

Photo of man blowing himself up at the abandoned train track reservoir
The huge explosion

If I don’t get out of here, I’m going to die, I thought, screaming in pain.

Rushing to my side, Amy, Nephi, and Tanya helped me up. Throwing my arms over their shoulders, somehow, I shuffled up the riverbank to the car, with blood pouring into my eyes, while Jessica called an ambulance.

Once in the back of the ute, I rested my head on Amy’s lap while Nephi raced us to the highway to meet the ambos.

‘Do I still have my face?’ I asked Amy.

‘Yes Levi, you still have your face,’ she said gently.

‘If I don’t make it, you have my blessing to remarry,’ I told Amy.

‘You’re not going anywhere,’ she comforted.

In emergency, scans showed I had blown both eardrums, my lungs had collapsed, and I was covered in

shrapnel wounds and large gashes.

Photo of man recovering in hospital after he blows himself up
Me in a coma five days after the accident

I kissed Amy goodbye, before being whisked into theatre so doctors could clean my wounds, amputate what was left of my left hand and relieve dangerous pressure that had built up from swelling of tissue in my right arm.

Coming to again, I was overjoyed to hear my wife’s voice. ‘Levi, you’re alive!’ Amy sobbed.

I’d been in an induced coma for six days.

One week later, I had another op where skin from my right thigh was grafted over my left knee, right arm, and right hand. And surgery a month later repaired my shrapnel-damaged left eye and ear drums.

‘I ruined my life,’ I sobbed at night when I was alone.

You should be dead right now, but you’re breathing, my voice of reason reminded me.

After 57 days in hospital, I was transferred to a rehab centre for two weeks, where I was fitted for my first prosthetic.

On October 22, three months after my accident and back at home, I received my new hand – a body powered hook that opened and closed by pulling on a cable attached to my right shoulder.

I worked tirelessly to master opening jars, and doing up buttons, with and without my prosthetic.  

Man learning how to walk again after blowing himself up
Learning to walk again

When Halloween rolled around, I made the most of my hook and dressed up as a pirate!

I’d been given a second chance – and I was going to live life to the fullest.

In July 2018, Amy gave birth to our son Max, now five, followed by our gorgeous girls Grace, three, and Freya, one.

When people ask how I lost my hand, Max says, ‘Dad blew himself up!’

Eight years on I’m living the life I dreamed of with my beautiful family. I’m learning how to play guitar with my stump, and have almost mastered playing piano with my hook.

I’ve even welded 15 of my own prosthetic attachments, including a spatula to flip burgers on the barbie!

I also travel the world sharing my message of overcoming adversity and making smart decisions.

Being an amputee isn’t all bad, especially now I get 50 per cent off manicures!

Life is a blessing, and I won’t let anything steal my happiness.

Photo of family, parents pictured with two children
Grace, Amy, me and Max (Credit: Supplied)

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