Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rescuer's Desperate Vow Saves Child From Flames: "I'm Not Going To Leave This Kid"

An amazing example of courage and self-sacrifice, as a clear-thinking New Zealand policeman witnesses a horrible car crash and springs into action :

[Inspector Mike O'Leary, operations manager for the Eastern Police District] said he heard screaming and jumped a fence, running around to the other side of the upturned wagon to see two children hanging out of the vehicle.
The wagon was engulfed in toxic smoke and flames, he said.
He grabbed a child in red clothing and ran about 10 metres from the burning vehicle. His daughter Sinead, 13, took over, comforting the hysterical boy.
He heard the other child, still trapped in the vehicle, talking to him. A man in the wagon called out "save the kids".
"I couldn't see into the van. I was pulling as hard as I could to free the child."
The wagon began making more exploding noises and he pushed [his 15-year son] Conor and the bystander Peter back.
"I had to make a decision - do I risk myself?
"I did step away but I thought, 'I'm not going to leave this kid'."
He called out for a knife to try to free the boy from his seatbelt or whatever was holding him inside and was given one by Peter. With the help of Conor and Peter, they eventually dragged him free.
The boy was badly burned and they stripped the clothes from his lower body, soaking him with water.

As it always seems with true heroes, their bravery is matched by their self-effacing humility:

Nursing a bandaged hand from burns received during his rescue of the children, he was modest about his efforts.
"It's not about me. Anyone would have done the same," he said, adding that he was proud of the way his family had acted during the incident.

... Debbie O'Leary said she was proud of her husband and his brave actions, despite his regret that the flames prevented him from getting anyone else out of the van.
"I'll never forget the look on his face when he said: 'I can't help these people'," she said.

The story has more layers of drama still; the inspector's family came upon the fiery accident while driving home from the funeral of a friend's son who had died from cancer:

As they drove, they were having a discussion about how life could sometimes be unfair and he told his family that some people get up in the morning "but never get home".

Godspeed to all involved, especially the two children now without at least one of their parents, and the hero forevermore struggling to reconcile the guilt haunting him for the five other lives he could not rescue, with the pride he should feel over the young souls his initiative allowed him to save.

May they all find peace.

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