Car crash hero thanked for life

Central Leader - - NEWS - By MON­ICA TISCHLER

TJ KOPA wants to thank the ‘‘hero’’ who saved his life.

The Avon­dale res­i­dent was a pas­sen­ger in a car that over­turned along Rose­bank Rd on Jan­uary 7 and landed on a res­i­den­tial fence.

The 20-year-old driver wasn’t wear­ing a seat belt and fell on top of Mr Kopa, 21.

Mr Kopa couldn’t breathe be­cause of the weight and says the seat belt was cut­ting into his neck.

That’s when a hero stepped in.

‘‘He pushed the driver off me. I would have died with­out his help.

‘‘I couldn’t breathe and he saved me,’’ Mr Kopa says.

Kiwi Auto Parts New Zealand owner Richard Ku­mar wit­nessed the ac­ci­dent and was first at the scene.

He saw Mr Kopa couldn’t breathe and broke the glass in the front win­dow to move the driver off him.

He also told an em­ployee to get a knife from his nearby work­shop to cut the seat belt.

Mr Ku­mar says the am­bu­lance took about 20 min­utes to ar­rive and by then Mr Kopa would have ‘‘gone’’ if he hadn’t in­ter­vened.

‘‘If I had waited an­other minute he would have died and I’d have re­gret­ted not do­ing any­thing my whole life.’’

He urges wit­nesses to act quickly at the scene of an ac­ci­dent.

‘‘If you can help save some­one’s life – don’t wait.’’

Mr Kopa’s par­ents Kopa Lafaele and Tai Kopa know just how lucky they are to have their el­dest son home safe.

They want to thank Mr Ku­mar, paramedics and hospi­tal staff for their help.

The fam­ily vis­ited Mr Ku­mar on Mr Kopa’s 21st birth­day on March 17 to per­son­ally ac­knowl­edge his coura­geous ef­forts.

‘‘TJ’s birth­day was on St Patrick’s Day,’’ Mr Lafaele says.

‘‘Green is the colour of life and we needed to find this spe­cial man.

‘‘We want to thank him and hope­fully it helps oth­ers to act be­fore the am­bu­lance comes and maybe save a life. ‘‘He’s TJ’s hero.’’ Mr Kopa spent a month in hospi­tal with a bro­ken hip and pelvis while the driver was re­leased the fol­low­ing day with no in­juries.

Mr Kopa trained as an en­gi­neer and was work­ing as a commercial pain­ter be­fore the ac­ci­dent.

It’ll take a year for him to fully re­cover from his in­juries and Mr Ku­mar has of­fered to help him back into the work­force when he’s ready.

Po­lice of­fi­cer in charge of the ac­ci­dent King Sun says the driver was on a learner li­cence and will ap­pear in court on April 3 charged with driv­ing dan­ger­ously caus­ing in­jury.

Lucky es­cape: TJ Kopa, 21, pic­tured with par­ents Kopa Lafaele, left, and Tai Kopa, was in a car ac­ci­dent on Rose­bank Rd in Jan­uary and owes his life to Richard Ku­mar, a wit­ness who acted quickly at the scene.

Life saver: TJ Kopa, 21, right, met with Richard Ku­mar on March 17.

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