A professional wakeskater who was electrocuted by a voltage that is equivalent to six electric chairs has defied doctors who said he likely wouldn’t survive the accident by returning to his beloved watersports, despite 25 per cent of his skin melting off in the horrific incident.
Matt Manzari, 31, from Florida, has been wakeskating and wakeboarding since a young age, and was even endorsed by Nike at the age of 15 – becoming the first ever wakeskater to land a partnership with the brand.
However in 2014, his life changed completely when he was electrocuted by a powerline while trimming the trees at his local church – an accident that left him with horrific injuries, and which many felt would keep him away from the water forever.
Recovery: Former professional wakeskater Matt Manzari, 31, was left with horrific scars across his body after being electrocuted by 14,000 volts – the equivalent of six electric chairs
Shocking: The accident occurred in 2014 when Matt, from Florida, was trimming trees at his local church and the metal truck he was standing in conducted electricity from a powerline
Deadly: Matt suffered fifth and fourth degree burns across 25 per cent of his body. His skin was melted and the electricity actually charred his muscles and ligaments, leaving him in a coma
The incident occurred shortly after the former watersports pro graduated from the University of Tennessee and began working with his local church group in June 2014. Weeks later, he offered to trim the trees surrounding the church.
Unbeknownst to Matt, he went about the task with the wrong equipment, using a remote controlled bucket truck with a steel bucket instead of one made from fiberglass. As he reached the canopy level of the trees, a nearby powerline sent a surge of electricity through the metal bucket he was standing in, causing 14,000 volts to tear through Matt’s body.
Electric chairs use between 2,000 and 2,200 volts – meaning that Matt’s body was subjected to the equivalent of six or seven of them.
Members of the church – including Matt’s pregnant wife Bobbye Jean, now 30, who had been working inside the building while her husband was outside – rushed to his aid, but found him in a terrible condition.
The electricity had melted Matt’s skin – leaving his ribs and collar bone completely exposed. He has suffered fourth and fifth degree burns across 25 per cent of his body, meaning that the electricity had actually charred his flesh in places, and had even burnt through ligaments and muscles.
Bobbye Jean and Matt’s parents were told that Matt was very unlikely to live to see the next day, but miraculously Matt managed to survive the night. Furthermore, doctors told Matt’s parents that the amputation of his arms was very likely due to how severe the burns were.
Matt spent the next week in a coma but even after waking up, Matt stood a high percentage chance of contracting sepsis which could have been life threatening due to the amount of skin he had lost and his proneness to infection.
Shock: Doctors told Matt’s wife Bobbye Jean, 30, and his family that he likely wouldn’t survive – and warned that if he did wake up, he would have brain damage and need an arm amputation
Before: The idea of Matt being unable to use his arms was shocking to those who knew him best. He competed as in professional watersports from age 15 and was sponsored by Nike
Survivor: Despite doctors’ warnings, Matt woke from his coma after just one week, and found he had not suffered brain damage. He’s since stunned experts by returning to wakeskating
Once again, Matt beat the odds and spent the next three months in hospital undergoing more than 70 surgeries for his injuries including the removal of burnt muscle and tendons in his upper arms and chest, and later skin grafts over his neck, arms, and chest.
Matt’s recovery has been a slow and painful process with the regeneration of his damaged nerves being excruciating – something that still causes him ongoing discomfort to this day.
But the father-of-two has made the unlikeliest of recoveries and has even been able to return to wakeskating, something that would have seemed impossible following his accident.
‘I started wakeskating and before I knew it, I was sponsored by Nike and traveling the world doing what I loved at the age of 15,’ said Matt.
‘I was living my childhood dream and even became the world wakeskating champion.
‘Although travelling and doing what I loved was amazing, it felt like there was a lot of smoke and mirrors when I reached the top of my sport.
‘I felt that my calling from God was to go into ministry and so I enrolled in a theology course at the University of Tennessee.
Support: Matt’s wife Bobbye (pictured during his proposal) was working in the church when the accident happened – and she rushed to his aid
Family first: Despite the gruesome prognosis, Matt was able to leave hospital after just three months, and was present for the birth of his first child (pictured wakeskating together)
Fight: Matt has had to undergo 70 surgeries, including a procedure to remove the burnt muscles and ligaments from his chest, as well as multiple skin grafts
‘A door opened and I was asked to come into a ministry and teach inner city kids how to water ski, wakeboard, and wakeskate.
‘One week after joining, I was trimming trees at a local church and a power line arched over to the metal bucket I was standing in.
‘The electricity shocked through me and caused fourth and fifth degree burns which melted most of the skin off of my chest and arms, going deep enough to kill muscle and bone.
‘They could see my rib cage and my sternum.
‘My wife was working inside the church and after holding her back until the ambulance got there, they finally told her she should say goodbye because they didn’t think I was going to make it.
‘They rushed me into emergency surgery and I was in a coma but alive. My family was told that if I ever woke up, I would not be the Matt they knew.
‘They said that amount of voltage definitely gave me brain damage, they just didn’t know how severe. The trauma of that much voltage should have stopped my heart.
‘It was the equivalent of being strapped to six electric chairs and them all being turned on. Miraculously, a few days later, I woke up from the coma and began to speak.
Agonizing: After the accident, Matt’s skin was so badly charred that it left his rib cage and sternum exposed, leaving him at serious risk of sepsis
Pushing forward: Matt recovery has been a slow and painful process with the regeneration of his damaged nerves being excruciating, but he has slowly been reaching full fitness again
Powerful: ‘When I look in the mirror, I see my scars and where my chest and arms muscles have been surgically removed but inside I’m a whole person,’ he said
‘Doctors were amazed as over the next month, my kidneys never failed, my heart was fine, I was able to keep my arms, and there was no brain damage.
‘A doctor told me when I was sitting in hospital that going septic was a matter of when as opposed to if because of the amount of flesh I had exposed.
‘I avoided sepsis and returned home in September – three months after my accident – just in time for my son Justice, six, to be born in January.’
Spreading the word: Matt now tours the country as a motivational speaker, using his experiences to help others
Matt’s near death experience certainly shifted his outlook on life and he now tours the country as a motivational speaker – sharing his story with businesses, churches and conferences in the hope that his tale of overcoming adversity can inspire others in the challenges they face.
Matt has also set up his own website and clothing brand called Beyond the Burn in order to share his tale of overcoming extreme adversity.
‘You definitely look at life differently when you’ve faced your own mortality,’ Matt said.
‘When you’re in a position where someone tells you, “In eight hours, you will probably be dead,” you think about all the things you didn’t say and do. You can’t help but view life differently.
‘When I look in the mirror, I see my scars and where my chest and arms muscles have been surgically removed but inside I’m a whole person.
‘I know who I am and I’m excited to do the most that I can with whatever time I have left on this earth.’