'The total impact of a crash is huge' says firefighter

By Ruth Keber, Sandra Conchie

1 comment
Kyle Fetherston was hit by a car while riding home in Welcome Bay in August 2014. Photo/Andrew Warner
Kyle Fetherston was hit by a car while riding home in Welcome Bay in August 2014. Photo/Andrew Warner

A Tauranga firefighter says he has attended too many fatal crashes in his career.

Tauranga fire brigade senior station officer Mania Durham said he had been a firefighter for 16 years, 12 of which he had spent in the Western Bay region.

In that time, Mr Durham and his team have been increasingly relied upon to help at serious car crashes - a trend reflected in brigades throughout New Zealand.

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"Too many to count. Too many you just don't want to remember as the scene was so horrific, but unfortunately it's something you never forget. It has a big impact on our firefighters who are having to deal with people's personal losses and tragedies.

"Because we're usually the first at the scene, we're having to deal with all the safety procedures to manage the scene as well as having to deal with everyone involved in the crash.

"It could be someone who has gone down a bank and is trapped inside their vehicle crying out for help, and we're still dealing with them and ... also having to deal with their family who have just arrived at the scene.

"The total impact of a crash is huge."

A Tauranga motorbike rider was lucky to avoid foot amputation after a vehicle accident in 2014.

Kyle Fetherston was knocked off his motorbike while on the way home in 2014. It would have been the first night he spent with his partner after moving into their Welcome Bay home that day.

He spent that night, and the next three weeks, in hospital but even now suffers from the effects of the crash.

[We] collided at that perfect moment. I saw his indicator, I thought he'd seen me. Then next thing I heard my leg snap."
Kyle Fetherston

"I was riding along and a guy turned off across into his driveway, straight into me.

"It's quite common people don't see bikes. They are a narrower profile where you are looking for something flat and wide [cars].

"[We] collided at that perfect moment. I saw his indicator, I thought he'd seen me. Then next thing I heard my leg snap."

His right leg was snapped in half and his foot shattered.

"It was all a blur, they gave me all these painkillers to try and straighten my leg back out to do my x-rays. By the time I came out I thought I was going to be able to leave hospital that night or the next day. I thought, 'sweet, just a little broken leg'.

"I had shattered both bones in my shin halfway down, and crushed my foot. My foot was basically folded up into this little smooshy mess."

He spent the next three weeks in Tauranga Hospital and had three surgeries to try to amend the damaged caused. Another surgery was needed after he was discharged.

Mr Fetherston was not wearing any high-vis gear but had protective gear, including Kevlar boots. "I probably would have taken my leg off if I didn't have the boot there, thankfully I did.

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"I probably got off lucky, some people spend months in hospital after motorbike crashes." His foot took almost four months to heal because of the way it was crushed.

"They kept trying to put it straight but it would flop over again because all the bones were broken."

Doctors eventually had to use "scaffolding" on his foot to hold it upright. He later found out the scaffolding was a last resort, and if did not work his foot would have had to been amputated because of bad necrosis.

The 30-year-old was out of work for about four months and even now has pain and swelling in his foot, as well a limp.

He has been told it will get better over time but it is expected he will suffer from arthritis in his knee and his foot later in life.

Mr Fetherston said he was nervous the first time he got back on his motorbike but it was something he had to do. He now wears high-vis gear while riding.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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