Ordinary people, extraordinary acts

Many New Zealanders have been able to enjoy Christmas thanks to the guardian angels who came to their rescue during the year.

Whether it was being in the right place at the right time, acts of bravery in the face of danger or helping to foil a crime, these good Samaritans deserve a pat on the back.

A sterling example of heroism is the Christchurch man who not only pulled a toddler from the jaws of an attacking dog, but gave the little girl first aid until help arrived.

Golf course superintendent Peter Macintosh was at Burnside's Jellie Park in August when he heard screaming and ran to find 2-year-old Aotea Coxen being mauled by a Staffordshire cross. He desperately dug his fingers into the dog's throat until it dropped her.

Aotea needed 290 stitches and a plate in her jaw. Police said Mr Macintosh - named by the Herald this month as one of our 10 New Zealanders of the year - probably saved the little girl's life.

About a month later an Auckland teacher was saved by his friend as he lay trapped underneath rocks and freezing mud after an eruption on Mt Ruapehu.

James Christie and William Pike were with two others inside Dome Hut, near the summit, when a lahar came through the door, crushing Mr Pike's legs under debris.

Mr Christie tried in vain to free him, then ran down the mountain towards Whakapapa Village to raise the alarm and bring help that saved his friend's life.

Two heart attack victims chose the right place to collapse, with one suffering the attack outside a hardware store where a medical equipment salesman was demonstrating a defibrillator.

The other collapsed outside the classroom of a first aid instructor who was teaching a CPR course at the fire station in Levin. Both survived.

Two truckies were hailed for their courage. Ngaruawahia driver Sonny Roberts was awarded a highway heroes award after saving a fellow truckie suffering an angina attack.

He was in north Waikato when he noticed the truck behind him weaving dangerously. The driver managed to stop his truck as Mr Roberts was preparing to use his own as a brake.

Mr Roberts called 111 and was talked through the first aid to help the driver until an ambulance arrived.

Another nominee for the heroes award was Tom Page, who almost had to deliver much more than the load in his truck.

The Wellington truckie was first to reach a car accident south of Turangi in early October. The passenger in the car went into labour and had to rely on Mr Page to follow instructions over the phone from an emergency service operator until an ambulance arrived.

A blown turbo on his truck later that day delayed his delivery for the second time that day, costing the humble hero his job.

It seems heroism has no barrier when it comes to age after an 80-year-old man was praised for intervening in an aggravated dairy robbery in Hamilton East in August.

Jack Norton was walking past the Tui Dairy on Heaphy St when he heard a scream and saw a man armed with a knife threatening the female shop owner. Mr Norton tried to reason with the offender, who fled and dropped a knife in the process.

"I'm glad the lady was all right, I couldn't live with myself if I'd just stood there and did nothing," Mr Norton said afterwards.

Another who didn't just stand around was 20-year-old Nelson rugby coach Lee Nelmes, who offered himself as a hostage to a man holding a broken bottle to the neck of a 14-year-old girl.

Mr Nelmes was coaching his team when a man who had been behaving oddly suddenly grabbed the teenage girl and held the broken bottle to her face.

The man warned Mr Nelmes and the rugby players to stay away and said: "If you come any closer I'll stab her in the face - she's as good as dead."

Mr Nelmes offered to go in the girl's place.

"My plan was to get the girl out of there - I thought it was better off me being in the situation rather than her."

Mr Nelmes overpowered the man and held him down while police arrested him.

In Wellington, two female guardian angels saved a woman from a sex attack in the central city. Police said the brave women shouted at the man who ran off, leaving the woman shaken but not seriously hurt.

A 13-year-old Martinborough boy will always be his grandparents' hero after he dragged them from their burning house.

Jackie and Peter Rogers were asleep in their beds when fire broke out in their Kitchener St home early one October evening.

Lionel Maukau said he saw smoke and flames erupting from the roof above his grandparents' room.

"I helped my grandmother get to the other side of the house away from the fire and then went back and got granddad," he told theWairarapa Times Age.

Mr Rogers said: "If it wasn't for Lionel being home on school holidays we would have been burned alive, I just know it."

Just over a week before Christmas five girls had their lives saved by a Bay of Plenty teenager in a dramatic rescue off Papamoa Beach.

Off-duty lifeguard Nathan Smith, 15, dragged the girls out of a rip that grabbed them in heavy swells.

Nathan took his kneeboard into the rip and quickly led three of them back inshore. He then returned to haul a fourth semi-conscious girl to shore, before going backto rescue the last girl, who was uncon-scious.

When all five were safely on the beach, Nathan ran to the Papamoa Surf Club to get oxygen for the two worst-affected.

No salute to the nation's heroes would be complete without mention of George the Jack Russell terrier, who gave his life to rescue a group of children from two pitbulls.

The 9-year-old barked and charged at two pitbulls that rushed at five children in the Taranaki town of Manaia.

The pitbulls savaged George until a passing motorist intervened and managed to separate the dogs.

Sadly, George was later put down because of his injuries.

- NZPA

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