Trio combine skills to rescue crashed motorcyclist from 'tree of life' in middle of swollen Waimakariri River
Bravery and Heroism category:
Shane Andrews was riding to work across a bridge when a driver distracted by the swollen Waimakariri River crossed the centre line and knocked him into the river.
The 47-year-old from Rangiora clung to what he called a "tree of life" in the middle of the grey torrent. If he hadn't, he would have been swept out to sea.
Rod Partington, Shane Lynch and Stu Farquhar sprang into action. What they did that day earned their nomination for the Pride of NZ Bravery and Heroism Award.
Mr Partington, a paramedic, was lowered from the Christchurch Westpac Rescue Helicopter by Mr Farquhar, the pilot. Mr Lynch operated the winch.
"I've been near the Waimakariri my whole life and I'd never seen the Waimak at such a horrendous rate," Mr Partington said.
"The motorcyclist fell in with a backpack on and helmet. He'd ditched the pack and got the helmet off, then gripped onto the tree.
"It was a sheer body of water roaring down there. If he had missed the tree he could've been swept out to sea.
"The motorcyclist had been in the water for 30 minutes. It took me 10 minutes to secure him to the belt. He was pinned against the tree.
"Shane and Stu had to let me float down to him. The belt was down past [Mr Andrew's] legs, and the force of the water made it difficult to get the belt up. He was a big guy and he was in all his motorcycle leathers.
"Mr Andrews was very calm. He was maintaining composure because he said if he had lost it, he would have been dead."
When Mr Andrews recovered, he thanked his rescuers profusely and told media about the experience. He then tracked down his rescuers via Facebook and met up with them over coffee as a thank you gesture.
Mr Partington works fulltime with St John, but is on a year's leave and working in Australia. Mr Farquhar continues to work with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.