Belfast Telegraph

Squaddie who lost legs in IRA blast tipped to enter Big Brother house

Twenty-one years ago he was fighting for his life after being seriously injured by an IRA bomb in Belfast.

But today the former squaddie, who lost both his legs and suffered injuries to his face, is likely to be confirmed as a Big Brother contestant.

Steve Gill (40) from Leicestershire had been on patrol with four other soldiers when the bomb, packed with nuts and bolts, was detonated as he passed a pub on the Falls Road on May 10, 1989.

He had one leg blown off, was left with another hanging off, almost lost an arm and was hit in the face with a brick blinding him in one eye. He spent five days in a coma at The Royal Victoria Hospital. He was just 19-years-old at the time.

Fortunately, surgeons were able to save and reconstruct his arm. However, he has been walking on crutches with two prosthetic limbs ever since the blast.

“I was due to be married that year and was looking forward to a long career in the Army,” he said. “And there I was. I’d lost parts of my body, which knackers you for the rest of your life, and my career was blown out of the water.”

Mr Gill, who joined the Royal Anglican Regiment at the age of 17, was due to finish his tour of duty in Northern Ireland two weeks after the IRA attack.

He now has a tattoo on his arm which bears the date of the attack next to an image of a bomb.

Now aged 40, and a married father-of-eight, he volunteers as a sports coach teaching wheelchair basketball as well as helping young soldiers seriously injured while serving in Afghanistan.

He is usually “matched up” with soldiers who have suffered similar injuries to him.

“It helps them a lot,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “They find it reassuring. They can see that I have got through it and coped and am doing some interesting things and it gives them hope that they will get through it too.”

Mr Gill, who has two artificial legs, said support for soldiers had improved immeasurably in recent years but he said older veterans were not given the same level of treatment, in particular the latest hi-tech artificial limbs.

His life is still tough but he says there are many worse off than him. “Many lads never make it home,” he said. “We should never forget that. I am lucky to be alive and I have a lot of good things in my life.”

Mr Gill is expected to be joined in the Big Brother house by Linford Christie's niece, who made headlines in 2009 when she was stripped of her Miss Great Britain title after being involved in an incident in a nightclub, an Iranian dwarf and a Beyoncé lookalike who checks herself out in the mirror 100 times a day.

Background

Big Brother 2010 is the eleventh and final series of the Channel 4 reality television show. It starts tonight and will run for the next 13 weeks. This year the house has been decorated |with glass walls, a circus-themed bedroom, a decadent bathroom and an outdoor old-fashioned fairground merry-go-round. The show, which started in 2000, has produced household names like the late Jade Goody and Brian Dowling, but most of the contestants from the past decade have since faded into obscurity.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph