NZ para athlete Bailley Unahi reflects on life changing event that lead her to new passion

Four years after being told she’d never walk again, Bailley Unahi refuses to give up.

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Bailey Unahi was crushed by a falling balcony at a Six60 Castle Street concert four years ago, leaving her unable to walk. Source: 1 NEWS

Back in 2016, Unahi was a second year student at Otago University. A quick visit to a Six60 gig on Castle street one Friday afternoon, would change her life forever.

“We got there just as Six60 was starting and that’s when it happened,” she said.

Bailley was crushed when a balcony above her landed on her and several others in attendance.

The impact leaving her with a severed spine and meant she’d never walk again.

“I was crushed, like folded in half.”

She’d spend the next few months in Burwood Spinal Unit, learning how to live life in a wheelchair.

Then in 2017 she was offered a chance to try sit-down skiing by Parafed Otago.

“She’s come a long way since her first lesson where she spent the whole time lying on her side,” jokes coach Scott Palmer.

Since then, Unahi’s quickly accelerated in the sport, to now be part of Snow Sports NZ ‘pathway to podium’ programme.

Her goal to represent New Zealand at the 2026 Paralympics.

“She can take feedback really really well and that’s a real asset,” Snow Sports NZ athlete life advisor Carol Goodlass said.

Since the accident in 2016, Unahi’s also changed her career path. Graduating with a degree in occupational therapy, after deciding she wanted to help others in a similar position.

“If I want to do it, I’ll keep going,” she says.

Along with Snow Sports NZ, ACC have played a big part in Unahi’s road to recovery. Helping fund her treatment, along with a car to help her get up the mountain each day.

Band members of Six60 say they’ve continued to follow her journey in recent years.

“We just want to wish you all the best, never give up,” drummer Eli Paewai said in a video message to Unahi.

Her life might not have turned out how she’d originally planned, but you get the feeling nothing will stop her achieving what others could only dream about.