Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Men who pulled drivers from burning vehicles honoured for bravery

Colin Wiggins, left, and Martin Kay after receiving the the NZ Bravery Medal at the investiture ceremony at Government House. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Colin Wiggins, left, and Martin Kay after receiving the the NZ Bravery Medal at the investiture ceremony at Government House. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Two men who pulled the drivers from burning vehicles moments before they were engulfed in flames have been honoured for their bravery.

Their actions saved the lives of 17-year-old Matthew McCann and 75-year-old Bill Stirling.

Today, Martin Kay and Colin Wiggins were honoured for putting their lives at risk to help the pair by receiving the New Zealand Bravery Medal at a ceremony at Government House in Wellington.

Mr Kay and Mr Wiggins were driving in opposite directions when they saw a car and a truck collide on a rural road near Hastings, on October 16, 2010.

Both men immediately jumped from their vehicles and ran towards the wreckage of the first car first, which had about three teenagers inside.

"That's the first thing I remember was this guy jumping out of the back of the car and running off with his hair on fire like Michael Jackson and there was a young girl who ran off into a paddock," Mr Kay said.

They got to the young driver who had hurt his leg and did not want to be moved.

"We just had to take him because there were flames coming out of the bonnet," Mr Wiggins said.

Mr Kay said he was amazed the car occupants survived based on the damage to the vehicle.

"They were just really bloody lucky that that Saturday afternoon wasn't their last one."

The men then ran to the burning truck, which was quickly filling with thick black smoke.

They couldn't see the driver but were able to break the windscreen with a hammer, which allowed vital fresh air to get to Mr Stirling. The men pulled the driver to safety just a moment before flames took hold of the truck.

The intensity of the blaze set the road's tar seal on fire.

It was not until Mr Stirling was pulled to safety that Mr Wiggins realised he knew him.

The crash traumatised both rescuers but today's ceremony had helped them move forward, they said.

"I never wanted to think about it again," Mr Kay said.

"(But now) it's become, when I think about that it'll be 'What a great day that was for the family' - we've got the nephews here and my parents-in-law visiting from Italy.

"And that's what the memory will be for me from now on."

Mr Wiggins said after the crash he needed therapy.

"For me (the honour is) closure."

But despite the trauma, they said they wouldn't hesitate doing it again.

"I think most people would," Mr Kay said.


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