When Kelvin Thomas saw the wreckage of a smashed-up car with his twin boys inside last year, he ignored the rescuers' calls to stay away and ripped out one of his sons. The dairy farmer knows in hindsight it was the wrong thing to do because his son, Luke, had a dislocated spine in two places and a torn bowel.
"I didn't realise the magnitude of his injuries but with the state he was in I just wanted him out. Troy actually looked worse. His face had opened up like a can of spaghetti."
The next few hours were mayhem but Mr Thomas said he was running on adrenalin. The next two weeks in hospital were tough, especially for Luke. His injuries were worse than Troy's because seconds before the crash he had slipped his arm out of his diagonal seat belt to take his shirt off because he was hot, meaning all the impact was taken on the lower lap belt, resulting in the bowel injuries.
"He dodged five bullets. He should have been dead five times with [complications]," Mr Thomas said.
But the boys pulled through and two weeks later they were released.
• Crash takes toll on family
Mr Thomas said it was tricky juggling looking after his sons and farming, particularly with the added stress of the low dairy payouts. But the community, friends and family pulled together to help them out.
"That Reporoa community, they cleaned our house before we got home, came and helped out, dropped meals off, some were from people we hardly even knew."
Mr Thomas beams with pride when he talks about his boys and how far they've come since the crash. "They are strong, determined young men. They wanted to be back playing rugby within six months and they were. That was their only goal."
Mr Thomas said the Ford Fairmont the twins' mother, Ruth Ashby, was driving belonged to his late father.
"For some stupid reason I had never got rid of that old car but it was because it felt safe to drive. It's a big old tank. That saved them as well. Someone was definitely looking down on them."