Saved, seconds before truck burst into flames

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Colin Wiggins, left, helped pull Bill Stirling from his burning truck. Photo / APN
Colin Wiggins, left, helped pull Bill Stirling from his burning truck. Photo / APN

Every day, when Haumoana man Colin Wiggins drives to work, he is reminded of an afternoon just over three years ago when he helped pull two injured people from their burning vehicles after a crash.

Mr Wiggins is to receive a New Zealand Bravery Medal (NZBM) alongside fellow motorist Martin Kay of Wellington.

"I go past and I look into the field where we comforted the girls after they'd got out of the car - and the burn marks are still on the road," Mr Wiggins said.

It was a day he, Mr Kay and a man they rescued - 78-year-old kaumatua Bill Stirling - will never forget.

On October 19, 2010, Mr Stirling was driving his truck to deliver a load of firewood to a friend when it and an overtaking car collided.

Both vehicles burst into flames, with the impact sending the car into a ditch and tipping Mr Stirling's truck on its side in the middle of the road.

The car had three occupants, 17-year-old driver Matthew McCann and two teenage passengers.

Mr Wiggins saw the crash in his rear view mirror and did a U-turn.

"I saw a teenage girl crawling out of the driver's side window ... she was screaming that her boyfriend was in the car."

A group of people rescued the trapped motorists.

He and Mr Kay then dashed to the truck, where Mr Stirling was almost obscured by thick smoke.

"I went to my van and grabbed a hammer," said Mr Wiggins, a carpetlayer.

"I smashed the window out and felt around inside and found him ... the whole cab was a blaze of orange."

Helped by Mr Kay, he pulled Mr Stirling from the cab just seconds before it was engulfed in flames.

Mr Wiggins said his reactions were instinctive and he never considered the danger until later.

"You see a fellow person in trouble like that and you just have to get in and do something."

Mr Stirling, who suffered grazes and a sore neck, went to see Mr Wiggins after he was discharged from hospital to thank him for what he did.

Mr Stirling said it was an incident that would be with him "forever" and was in no doubt that had it not been for the actions of the two rescuers he would not be here today.

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