A nurse who dragged an unconscious man from a burning car, a medical team that saved lives at the site of a plane crash in Nepal, and two police officers who braved a swollen river to rescue a fleeing offender are among those receiving bravery awards in Wellington today. The Governor-General today presented the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand Silver Medals to 10 recipients at Government House. The medals are awarded for acts of bravery where rescuers put their own lives at risk to assist others whose lives are in peril.
Auckland painter Zane Paki thought he was breaking up a fight, but soon found himself having to disarm a man who had just stabbed his wife to death in the foyer of a central Auckland language school.
On May 22, 2015, Mandeep Singh entered the AWI International Education Group building in Queen St, armed with five knives, murdered his wife, Parmita Rani, and turned on her male friend, Parminder Singh.
Paki, who had been contracted to carry out some work at the school, rushed into the fray, pulling the knife away from Singh.
"I though, oh jeez, I'd better do something about this. So I went up behind him an pulled the knife away from him.
"As I did that, the rest of the crowd kind of pulled away, and then I saw that poor lady on the ground."
It was only when Paki realised the woman on the ground was probably dead, that he knew how much danger he was in.
But rather than getting himself to safety, he took Singh away from the crowd and sat him down to try and calm him down.
"He was still yelling out and then he pulled out another knife so I threw that knife on the ground."
Paki kept him restrained and under control until police arrived.
According to the Royal Humane Society citation, Paki's actions "undoubtedly helped to prevent a second homicide".
"He showed incredible bravery and prevented further tragedy."
Paki said he was humbled, and his family was proud to see him get the honour.
But his wife hadn't been so thrilled at first.
"She said to me, 'did you ever think about us when you did that?'
"And I said, 'well, no, I just did what I had to do in the time I was given'."
Canterbury nurse Grant Wooding is "shocked" and "humbled" to be getting an award for a dramatic incident two years ago in which he saved a stranger's life by pulling him unconscious from a burning vehicle.
Wooding had to use his bare hands to put out flames around the driver's feet, and had to stop his first aid occasionally to pull the man further from the crashed car as explosions went off and fire engulfed the vehicle.
He was at his mother's house in Peel Forest, Geraldine, when he heard "an almighty crash" and saw a car had hit a tree.
Wooding rushed to the scene, hurrying to free the unconscious driver from his car. It had already caught fire and the flames were spreading.
I can't remember feeling a lot going through my mind. I was really just in the moment.
"It looked, obviously, very serious right from the outset," he said.
Wooding is a registered nurse and had previously volunteered as a paramedic, so had skills and experience to rely on when rescuing the driver.
"The guy's not in a good shape, I can tell that I need to get him out pretty swiftly because the front of the car has caught fire," he said.
It took Wooding a few tries to open the door. When he reached the driver, the man was not breathing.
The man's shoes had also caught fire, but Wooding was able to pat out the flames without hurting himself.
"I can't remember feeling a lot going through my mind. I was really just in the moment."
Using the advanced first aid kit he kept in his truck, Wooding worked on the man for some time, with the help of others who also came to the rescue.
On the day you just leap into it with both hands and do what you need to, and later on you have some time to reflect.
"I think I was the right guy at the right time," he said.
Wooding said he had been afraid of the immediate danger while pulling the man from the car.
"I think anyone would be. But it was, you know, it's someone's life, you know? And you do what you can to try and get them out of a bad situation, and fortunately we were able to do that.
"Several times we had to sort of, with the help of other people, pull him away from the car as it was going up in flames. There were a few explosions."
Wooding still thinks about the incident.
"It's undeniable that it does affect you. On the day, you just leap into it with both hands and do what you need to, and later on you have some time to reflect.
"I'm pleased that this gentleman's got the opportunity to still be a part of his family and I know he's got young grandchildren and I know that they're thrilled to still have him around. That, for me, is the biggest outcome from this, is that, you know, you get to spare a life and he gets to continue his life, and I think that's a pretty awesome thing for a family."
Wooding got "quite a shock" and thought someone was pulling a prank on him when he found out he was receiving the award.
"I don't think I will still fully believe it until I'm standing in front of the Governor-General to be honest."
He said he was humbled, proud, grateful and honoured.
"I'm not one to sort of talk about these things too much. I do think about the event and what happened, and yeah, I'm just glad I was there and I was able to help this gentleman when he need it most."
Junior doctor Rory Clarke was riding in a taxi with two other doctors on their way to a party when they witnessed another car lose control on a bend and plunge into an estuary in Sumner, Christchurch on March 25, 2017.
Clarke and fellow doctor Oliver Beaumont ran to the water, where the car was rapidly submerging, and leapt in.
READ MORE: Doctor tells of desperate bid to save couple
They were able to open pensioner Bruce Imrie's door and get him out, and pull him back to the beach.
But the car was swept away within minutes, before they were able to rescue his wife, Maureen Imrie.
Beaumont dived to a depth of about four to six metres to try to save her, but was unable to. Her body and the car were found the next day.
If it weren't for Clarke and Beaumont, however, Bruce Imrie would not have survived, the society said.
Nan Sia and Junao Zhang
Nan Xia and Junao Zhang were at a nearby Mobil Service Station when they saw a car crash through wooden bollards into the Waikato River on May 7, 2016.
Driver Terry Lockley had lost consciousness while behind the wheel.
Zhang and Xia swam to either side of the car, trying to direct it into a shallow area nearby, but the current pushed the vehicle 150m north. The front of the car soon began to sink in deep water.
Xia was able to free the passenger, but they were unable to rescue Terry Lockley as the car sunk 2m under water. His body was recovered by the Police Dive Squad later that evening.
In a swift-moving river with an outgoing tide, Zhang and Xia could have been sucked down with the car when it sank, the society said.
"Both men showed immense bravery and courage in trying to save Mr Lockley's life."
Andrew Gutsell, Alyssa Lowe and Andrew Roy
New Zealand rescuers Andrew Roy, Andrew Gutsell and Alyssa Lowe worked tirelessly for 17 hours to save those involved in a cargo plane crash near Mt Everest last year.
Roy, a rescue paramedic, dragged an unconscious and critically injured co-pilot from the cockpit of the plane, which had crashed into a mountain in Nepal on May 27, 2017.
The Air Dynasty medical team assembled by South Island high-altitude rescue pilot Andrew Gutsell quickly took charge.
Roy scaled down the side of a cliff to reach the mangled fuselage, followed by emergency nurse Lowe, who was carrying a large bag full of medical equipment and a portable stretcher.
Roy and Gutsell, who were inside the plane, had to convince the 400 or so local civilians who had rushed to help to stop hacking at the exposed metal in an attempt to free those inside, as it was causing heavy sparking and risked tipping the plane from its wedged position on the cliffside.
Gutsell had to extinguish fire in the cockpit after leaking hydraulic lines caught alight.
While the co-pilot could not be saved, the team provided continuous attendance, treatment, and pain management for a critically injured flight attendant, until weather cleared enough to allow her evacuation to the hospital the next morning.
"She would not have survived the night without this vital care," the society said.
The team "potentially saved dozens more lives" by controlling the crash scene, providing crowd control, and mitigating hazards to prevent a catastrophic post-crash fire and ensuing explosion.
"The courage and bravery shown by these three individuals is remarkable."
Billy-Ray Slight and Aaron Wilkins
Sergeant Billy-Ray Slight and Constable Aaron Wilkins were chasing fleeing offenders when they found themselves having to make the quick decision to leap into a swollen Hutt River.
The pair were tasked with arresting the two men on June 30, 2016, when they abandoned their car and jumped into the river.
One of the men injured his leg and hurt his head, making getting out of the river nearly impossible.
Slight and Wilkins, who were on different banks of the river, both decided to jump in to help rescue the man.
The group were all carried 250m down the river by the strong current, but the pair were able to get the man safely out of the water.