Reference > Erinsborough News > Shot In The Heart
Neighbours star still carries a reminder of a near-fatal boyhood accident…
When Richard Norton landed the role of Ryan McLachlan in Neighbours, he couldn’t believe his luck. But Richard’s the first to admit he’s always had luck on his side.
The young Neighbours star is accident-prone and came close to death after a freak mishap when he was 11. Richard was accidentally shot and still has an air-rifle pellet lodged in the muscle around his heart. The lead pellet came within millimetres of killing him.
Doctors decided it was safer to leave the pellet embedded in the muscle rather than risk open-heart surgery to remove it.
“My family used to joke that I’d make those airport security checks go off because of the lead, but it doesn’t happen,” he says with a laugh. “I can’t feel that it’s there now but it was incredibly scary at the time. I can still remember everything very vividly. I was very lucky my friend didn’t kill me.”
The accident happened in Adelaide when Ryan and a friend, Chris, were on school holidays. “Chris had an air rifle which he wasn’t supposed to use if his parents weren’t around, but one day we were bored so he got it out,” Richard recalls. “Chris was just mucking around, just pumping it full of air and shooting it at me – it wasn’t loaded. I think we discarded the gun for a while and it must have accidentally got cocked, so that when he picked it up again it was loaded.”
“He was about three metres away from me when he shot me. It went in through my left side, through my lung and into the wall of my heart. When I screamed and fell to the ground, he thought I was joking. I remember he said ‘Oh rubbing, I haven’t shot you’ but when I lifted up my arm, there was all this blood. Chris nearly fainted.”
En route to hospital, Richard told his parents – who had already endured the trauma of his brother’s accidental death years earlier – several ‘cockermolly’ stories because he didn’t want to get Chris into trouble. The x-rays, however, soon told the truth.
“It would have been very major open-heart surgery to remove it, so the doctors advised us to leave it there,” Richard says. “I was in intensive care for a while and then I wasn’t allowed to do anything strenuous for six weeks in case it dislodged it.”
During the six months 19-year-old Richard has been in Melbourne filming Neighbours, he’s progressed relatively unscathed. “I’ve had a few bumps and bruises,” he says. “I came off my skateboard the other day and grazed all down one side but I’ve been trying to take a bit of extra care lately!”
This article originally appeared in TV Week magazine dated 19th May 1990 and was written by Chrissie Camp