Grateful gran looking for angel

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The grandmother of a five-year-old Kaitaia girl who was critically injured in a crash in the Bay of Islands last week is seeking the "angel" who gave her granddaughter a chance of survival.

Hinehou Apiata (Waitangi) said she was immensely grateful to the young woman who started her granddaughter breathing again. She was convinced that the woman was Luka Herewini-Kelsen's saviour, an angel sent to save her life.

She wants to express her gratitude in person, as well as that of the Luka's mother, Kimberley Herewini-Kelsen, and the two families.

"I believe God sent her there. I want the whole world to know we're just so grateful to her," Mrs Apiata said.

The head-on crash left Luka with critical head injuries. She wasn't breathing when help arrived in the form of a young woman from Tutukaka. Sergeant Peter Masters said the woman, who had grown up in the Australian outback with parents who were senior nurses, cleared the child's airways and put her in the recovery position.

Luka began breathing again, and was flown by rescue helicopter to Auckland's Starship Hospital, where she remains in a critical condition in intensive care.

Mrs Apiata said Luka and her twin brother Koda, who survived the crash unhurt, lived in Kaitaia but had been visiting their father in Waitangi for the holidays.

Last Thursday the family had been advised to prepare themselves for the possibility that the child's life support would be turned off. Brain scans had shown a slight improvement since then, however, prompting Starship's doctors and nurses to persevere.

The driver, Mrs Apiata's son, suffered broken legs and ribs and a punctured lung. He was discharged from Whangarei Hospital on Monday.

Mrs Apiata said the families were grateful for the support, love and prayers they had received from as far away as Australia, even from complete strangers.

"Without that we wouldn't be able to cope. It's just so uplifting," she said.

The families were also hugely grateful to the St John medics, volunteer firefighters, police and helicopter crews.

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash, including whether the children were restrained and whether alcohol was involved. The driver of the ute, a Russell man in his 50s, suffered moderate injuries.

- Northland Age

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