NZers of the Year: Pat and Dolly Ratu, caring couple

By Derek Cheng

Pat Ratu was trailing a car that was swerving erratically over the road when he saw a baby in the car's front passenger seat.

Karina Coburn, a 43-year-old mother-of-five on a learner's licence, had driven hundreds of kilometres in a drunken haze with her 2-year-old daughter beside her.

As she drove along State Highway 3 on an October afternoon her car was on the wrong side of the road at almost every corner.

As he trailed her, 47-year-old Ratu, a truck driver for transporter Carr and Haslam Ltd knew he had to stop the car before an inevitable crash.

But Coburn's swerving meant it was difficult to overtake, and it wasn't until near Awakino Gorge that Ratu managed to squeeze around her and surge ahead.

Once past, he jack-knifed his truck across the road, forcing the car to pull to the side.

He called police before taking the woman's keys. The daughter was distraught and crying.

Two empty wine bottles sat in the back seat of Coburn's Nissan. She had been drinking since leaving a baby shower in Waiuku, more than 150km away.

She was more than two-and-a-half times over the legal breath-alcohol limit.

Ratu has been named Highway Hero of 2005 for his actions. His wife, Dolly, showed up at Coburn's court appearance to offer ongoing support.

It is the second time Ratu has been nominated for the award. In 2003, he spent two hours immersed in offal comforting the trapped driver of a crashed truck near Taranaki.

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