Heroic acts all in a day's work for some Kiwis, writes Rebecca Quilliam

Ordinary Kiwis have acted heroically in the face of extraordinary situations this year.

One tale of selfless courage took place on an Auckland railway line in February, when two strangers risked their lives for a wheelchair-bound woman stuck on the tracks with a freight train speeding towards her.

Matthieu Mereau and Marzena Simpson couldn't free the wheelchair of the 22-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, so they tipped it and the three of them fell forward - barely a second before the train arrived.

Also showing courage in the face of danger was a Hamilton man who threw himself in the path of a motorist who was allegedly trying to run over her partner. Footage of the incident last month showed a woman aiming her vehicle at the victim, but forced to drive away when the middle-aged man ran at the car.


But nothing says hero quite like running into a flaming building to save the life of a baby, which was just what a Palmerston North man did on the morning of February 27.

A 16-month-old girl was trapped in the burning house while her parents desperately screamed for help.

The unnamed man heard their calls and dashed into the burning building to save the toddler.

Later in the year two other children were rescued from flames when the vehicle they were in caught fire.

The 2-year-old boy and his 3-year-old sister had been left in the vehicle in a Gisborne carpark when the fire started.

Nearby businessman Mutu Ngarimu and two others pulled the unconscious children from the vehicle before reviving them.

The country's youths have also shown courage in extraordinary situations, including 13-year-old Cade McInnes, who rescued an elderly whitebaiter from drowning when he fell into a coma and slipped into the the Hokitika River in October.

In February, Liam Robinson and Angus Bailey, both 14, didn't hesitate to pull Andrew Tobeck from the cab of his submerged truck after it plunged into deep water in Christchurch's Halswell River.

Three other youths, usually known to Northland police for all the wrong reasons, turned heroes when they broke into a parked heated car to rescue a baby left locked inside.

Liam Robinson and Angus Bailey plunged into the Halswell River to pull a man from the cab of his submerged truck. Photo / APN
Liam Robinson and Angus Bailey plunged into the Halswell River to pull a man from the cab of his submerged truck. Photo / APN

Police said the trio had "colourful histories" with police, but on this occasion they did the right thing.

New Zealanders have also distinguished themselves overseas - Steven Bates barricaded himself and other terrified passengers into a secure luggage area after a gunman opened fire metres away at Los Angeles Airport last month.

He took the action as gunman Paul Anthony Ciancia fired dozens of rounds into the airport crowd, killing a transit security officer and wounding seven other people.

And an Australian man has a group of Kiwi builders to thank for being able to see in Christmas this year.

The group of nine, mainly Aucklanders, lifted a ute off John Williams, who was trapped after a crash. Wife Darline said they were the only ones who stopped. "If they hadn't stopped and done what they did, John would not have made it."

Charlie Pyke had Will Te Kira to thank for pulling him from a burning car.
Charlie Pyke had Will Te Kira to thank for pulling him from a burning car.

Into the line of fire without a moment's hesitation

Had Will Te Kira stopped to think about it before pulling a man from a blazing car south of Gisborne, he might have hesitated.

But instead the mechanic acted on instinct, with the help of Brett Papworth, and saved the life of 74-year-old Charlie Pyke.

Mr Pyke's car burst into flames when he crashed in the Wharerata Hills last month. Mr Te Kira was the first on the scene.

"I stopped, got out and yelled - and heard a man's voice reply.

"I called to Charlie to grab my hand, then I heard the whoosh of the flames starting and that made me go harder."

Mr Te Kira yanked Mr Pyke from the blazing vehicle and he and Mr Papworth pulled him to safety just as the car exploded.

A month after the rescue, Mr Te Kira said if he had thought about the potential consequences of rushing towards a burning car, he might have hesitated. Since the incident he had wondered if, faced with the same situation, he would do it again.

"I would have rather do that than listen to a man burn to death."

He had received a thank you letter from Mr Pyke's daughter. "I think anyone would have done it ... it's just that I happened to be there - lucky for him."