Nick Harvey belongs to a very rare group of people.
Not many can say they’ve survived a plane crash – but that nightmare became a reality for him during what was meant to be one of the happiest times of his life.
He was on honeymoon with his wife Claire when the plane they were in crash-landed into a building.
The pilot was killed, dozens were hurt and the newlyweds were lucky to survive.
As Nick waited to be rescued he began to think about his life and the well-paid but unfulfilling job he had in telecommunication sales.
Today as he looks back at the crash – and how far he’s come since – he realises it was the catalyst for some pretty major changes.
‘Because of the accident I had an epiphany,’ he explains. ‘When you are lying there you think of your friends, of your family, and that’s great but I remember thinking “I’m not too happy with spending my life sitting behind a desk”.
‘If that was it, if I was cashing in my chips, then I wouldn’t have been too happy.’
He adds: ‘It was one of those moments. I was waiting to be cut out and I thought “I don’t want to be sat at a desk any more”. I wanted to do more than that.’
Nick and Claire were one week into their dream honeymoon and on an internal flight from Krabi to Koh Samui in Thailand in 2009 when the accident happened.
They’d married just one week earlier in front of family and friends in Chichester.
‘We were thinking that it would be a nice trip away,’ says 35-year-old Nick. ‘We had never been to Thailand before and it was all very exotic. It was our honeymoon and we were excited and we were really looking forward to it.
‘We’d had a nice relaxing time the first week and were looking forward to a livelier second week when the accident happened.’
When the plane crashed they feared it might catch fire and Nick encouraged Claire to escape.
Somehow she managed to get out of the wreckage by walking despite a broken leg. But Nick was pinned to his seat for more than an hour.
‘I was pinned in and I wanted her to get off the plane as soon as possible,’ he recalls. ‘Claire was the first thing I thought of. I didn’t scream or cry – she was my priority.’
While the emergency services were cutting him out of the wreckage, Nick made a vow then and there to change their lives.
But when they arrived home in Portsmouth two weeks later they both had to come to terms with their injuries first.
Both had titanium rods inserted to rebuild their legs and were on crutches for eight months. Nick had broken his right leg while Claire had broken her left.
Those months were hell for Nick, who had always been a sporty person.
‘Before the accident I had never broken a bone. I had played lots of hockey and been smacked with sticks and never seemed to get really hurt.
‘Claire had never been really hurt or been to hospital either. So we just kind of took for granted that we were fine.
‘All of a sudden there’s a big crash bang wallop and it completely changes your whole perspective on things.
‘We could have been a lot worse but still we had nasty broken legs and cuts and bruises but it was quite interesting watching yourself heal when you have never had that before. Everybody was great trying to help us out. You realise that you shouldn’t take for granted that you have two legs and that you can use them. I think a lot of people do.’
After months of intensive physio, Nick and Claire were on the road to recovery.
‘It was nice to do something challenging and get fit,’ says Nick.
‘Then I started thinking about my career and what I wanted to do with my future.
‘There had been so many people who had helped us after the crash and I wanted to do something where I could help people too.
‘It’s a really good feeling when someone you don’t know helps you out and I wanted to do that.’
The metal plates were in Nick’s leg for a year. During that time it was hard for him to get fit because the stomping motion of exercise would cause the metal plates to jar and shudder, sending an excruciating pain through his bone – so he began to look for alternatives.
‘While sitting with my leg up, searching on the internet, I came across kettlebells on YouTube. They interested me as you swing them to build up fitness. They give you a cardio workout as well as burning fat.’
Kettlebells look like a cannonball with a handle. They can weigh anything from 4kg up to 16kg and are swung to create a high-intensity work-out.
Burning that amount of calories in such a short time was a big draw for Nick so he ordered a kettlebell on the internet and began practising at home.
‘At the gym I used to do weights and then a cardio workout but with a kettlebell I could do both at the same time.
‘I kept the kettlebell in the cupboard and got it out when I had time.
‘It was like having a whole gym in your hand.’
Following his own success, Nick realised his future also lay in that direction. So he quit his job to focus on his dream of becoming a personal trainer and helping others.
Since then he has gone back to college to get his qualifications and set up two kettlebell classes in Portsmouth.
Claire has also quit work to become a freelance business development manager. She just wants to put the experience behind her and move on with her life.
Now they are both working for themselves they can spend more time at home with their seven-month-old daughter Clover.
Nick says: ‘We found out that Claire was pregnant at Christmas so we sat down and thought about what it was we actually wanted from life.
‘We were both diagnosed with post-traumatic stress so we thought it best that she worked for herself because she can take short-term contracts and do what really matters, which is taking care of Clover and spending time as a family.’
After such a close brush with death, Nick has completely turned his life around. They have re-evaluated their priorities and are both now making the most of life.
And that’s a lesson he thinks others can learn from: ‘I think that when I was in that accident and I didn’t know what would happen, I realised that you have got to do something that you really love.
‘When you are lying there you don’t think “I wish I had worked a bit harder”.
‘You realise how lucky you are, that you are still alive, and it gives you a good wake up call.
‘Don’t waste your life.’
· Nick’s classes run on a Wednesday evening at Eastney Community Centre and a Saturday morning at Everybody Pilates in Kings Road, Southsea. For more information visit portsmouthkettlebells.co.uk or call 07818 519428.