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Accident of Christopher Reeve that Left Him Paralyzed Neck-below

Accident of Christopher Reeve
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | January 29, 2022 (Last update: January 19, 2023)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Christopher Reeve was an American actor, best known for playing Superman in movies. Reeve met with a horrible accident on 27 May 1995 in Culpeper, Virginia. The accident caused spinal cord injury that left Reeve quadriplegic for life. He is among the most famous disabled persons in the world. Following are the details of the accident that changed the life of Reeve.

Christopher Reeve’s accident happened during a horse riding (Equestrian) competition. He became interested in horse riding after learning to ride for the film Anna Karenina in 1985. To further develop his newfound passion Reeve had bought a thoroughbred horse and named him ‘Buck‘ in 1994. When bought, the horse was 12 years old. Reeve began training with Buck. His plan was to compete in Training Level competitions in 1995 and in the Preliminaries in 1996. But fate had something else in store for Reeve.

In May 1995, Reeve had signed up to compete in an event in Vermont — but his coach invited him to attend Commonwealth Dressage and Combined Training Association (CDCTA) finals in Culpeper, Virginia. He reached Culpeper and participated in the event along with 300 other riders.

Christopher Reeve was allergic to horses. But he took antihistamines to overcome this issue and continue with his Equestrian enthusiasim.

In the afternoon of 27 May 1995, Christopher Reeve participated in a roadblock test in Culpeper competition. The roadblock event had a series of obstacles which the horse and the rider had to jump over. Reeve was concerned about jump number 16 and 17. However, he paid little attention to the third jump, which was a routine three-foot-three fence shaped like the letter ‘W’.

As Reeve, riding on the back of Buck, was jumping over this very third fence, the horse stopped. Due to this sudden halt midway into the jump, Reeve’s body lunged forward off the back of the horse. And that was the moment.

Christopher Reeve landed head-first on the other side of the fence. The impact crushed his C1 and C2 vertebrae. This caused cervical spinal cord injury and left him paralyzed neck-below. He was flown to the University of Virginia Medical Center in a helicopter.

Christopher Reeve did not remember the accident at all.

Video of Christopher Reeve’s Accident

We could not find any trustworthy real video of the accident. However, a video of Dateline NBC discusses the accident and its impact in details. Here is the NBC video:

Reeve After the Accident

In his book Somewhere in Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve, author Christopher Anderson revealed that when Reeves was informed of the gravity of his injuries he wanted to “slip away” as he did not want to be a burden on his family.

The book also revealed that Dana Reeve, wife of Christopher Reeve, told him, “I will support whatever you want to do because this is your life, and your decision. But I want you to know that I’ll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You’re still you. And I love you.”

Dana also told tat “Hold on for two years, if you still feel this way two years for now we will reconsider this question.”

After this Christopher Reeve consented to the surgery that saved his life.

After the surgery, Christopher Reeve spent nearly five months in Kessler Rehabilitation Center in New Jersey. During the rehabilitation process he learnt operating his motorized wheelchair. Reeve, in the autobiography Still Me, mentioned that initially he did not want to accept his disability. This is very common and understandable reaction of survivors who acquire disability. However, later with the support from family, friends and fans, Reeve began to see himself as part of the disabled community.

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4 responses to “Accident of Christopher Reeve that Left Him Paralyzed Neck-below”

  1. Avatar Diana Lee says:

    I have been a Christopher Reeve fan since Superman was released. Somewhere in Time is one of my favorite movies. So tragic what happened to this handsome, virile man. But he became such an inspiration to so many in the years following the accident and up until his passing. Dance in Heaven with your beautiful Dana, Superman. You are missed.

  2. Avatar Dave says:

    You have always been a inspiration to the disabled. You will always be their Superman!

  3. Avatar DALPAY, FJ says:

    In Orlando Florida is an apartment complex named after the Reeves Family. Directly east is a building named after Doris Day. (Rumor has it?)
    Actually, many FILM companies have a Share in Orlando. Disney, Paramount, Universal & Private Religious groups all profit through Stage, Theater, & Symphony. Screen Actors Guild, FMPTA, IATSE, & other qualifyed Unions participate.

  4. Avatar Cjanfurs says:

    My daughter attended a lot of shows at Culpepper in the Hunter/jumper categories for kids under 18. A friend of a friend was watching Christopher’s event. She saw he was a bit high on the horses neck when the horse suddenly stopped. I don’t know if he was at a level to make those jumps and if he felt uneasy I wished he had listen to his gut. Culpepper was always an excellent show and could bring people like Rodrigo Pessoa. This was a high level competition. His family endured such loss and tragedy. RIP Christopher and Dana

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