Two separate rescues – one from a burning car and the other from a submerged car – saw a Canterbury nurse and doctor being presented the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand Silver Medal for bravery.
Community mental health nurse Grant Wooding said he was shocked and humbled to receive the bravery medal from the Governor-General for a dramatic incident two years ago in which he saved a stranger’s life by pulling him from a burning vehicle.
Junior doctor Rory Clarke was riding in a taxi with two other doctors on their way to a party when they witnessed another car lose control on a bend and plunge into an estuary in Sumner, Christchurch, on March 25, 2017.
The Canterbury District Health Board pair were amongst ten recipients to receive the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand Silver Medal from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy at Government House on June 5. The medals are awarded for acts of bravery where rescuers put their own lives at risk to assist others whose lives are in peril.
Wooding said he was at his mother’s house in Peel Forest, near Geraldine, two years ago when he heard “an almighty crash” and saw a car had hit a tree.
He rushed to the scene, hurrying to free the unconscious driver from his car. It had already caught fire and the flames were spreading.
It looked, obviously, very serious right from the outset,” he said.
Wooding is a registered nurse and had previously volunteered as a paramedic, so had skills and experience to rely on when rescuing the driver.
“The guy’s not in a good shape, I can tell that I need to get him out pretty swiftly because the front of the car has caught fire,” he said.
It took Wooding a few tries to open the door. When he reached the driver, the man was not breathing.
The man’s shoes had also caught fire, but Wooding was able to pat out the flames without hurting himself.
“I can’t remember feeling a lot going through my mind. I was really just in the moment.”
Using the advanced first aid kit he kept in his truck, Wooding worked on the man for some time, with the help of others who also came to the rescue.
The Royal Humane Society says that although Grant is trained as a nurse and paramedic, the circumstances put him at a high risk of injury or death and the driver of the vehicle would almost certainly have died had he not responded in the timely and brave way that he did. “I think I was the right guy at the right time,” Wooding told the NZ Herald.
Wooding said he had been afraid of the immediate danger while pulling the man from the car.
“I think anyone would be. But it was, you know, it’s someone’s life, you know? And you do what you can to try and get them out of a bad situation, and fortunately we were able to do that.
“Several times we had to sort of, with the help of other people, pull him away from the car as it was going up in flames. There were a few explosions.”
Wooding still thinks about the incident.
“It’s undeniable that it does affect you. On the day, you just leap into it with both hands and do what you need to, and later on you have some time to reflect.
“I’m pleased that this gentleman’s got the opportunity to still be a part of his family and I know he’s got young grandchildren and I know that they’re thrilled to still have him around. That, for me, is the biggest outcome from this, is that, you know, you get to spare a life and he gets to continue his life, and I think that’s a pretty awesome thing for a family.”
Wooding got “quite a shock” and thought someone was pulling a prank on him when he found out he was receiving the award.
“I don’t think I will still fully believe it until I’m standing in front of the Governor-General to be honest.”
He said he was humbled, proud, grateful and honoured.
“I’m not one to sort of talk about these things too much. I do think about the event and what happened, and yeah, I’m just glad I was there and I was able to help this gentleman when he need it most.”
Rory Clarke was one of three British doctors in a taxi on their way to a party when they witnessed another car lose control on a bend and plunge into an estuary in Sumner, Christchurch on March 25, 2017.
Tara Kubba remained on shore and called emergency services. The car was floating in strong currents, taking in water, and moving quickly towards the sea.
Clarke and colleague Oliver Beaumont,who returned to the UK some time ago, ran to the water as the car was rapidly submerging and leapt in.
They were able to open pensioner Bruce Imrie’s door and get him out, and pull him back to the beach, but the car was swept away within minutes, before they were able to rescue his wife, Maureen Imrie.
Beaumont dived to a depth of about four to six metres to try to save her, but was unable to. Her body and the car were found the next day.
If it weren’t for Clarke and Beaumont, however, Bruce Imrie would not have survived, the society said.
Clarke, who until earlier this month was a surgical registrar at Canterbury District Health Board said he and Oliver were humbled and honored to be recognised for their actions in this way.
“At the time we didn’t think of any other option but to try and help the couple, and it was only afterwards that we realised how dangerous the situation was.”
Beaumont was to receive his award in the UK
The Royal Humane Society says the driver survived due to the actions of Clarke and Beaumont, who put themselves at considerable personal risk to conduct a rescue in very challenging and dangerous conditions.
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