Otago Daily Times
Paramedic remembers moment gunfire started
WHENEVER Doug Flett brings his children to Aramoana, he always takes a moment to stop and pay his respects at a special memorial.
It reminds him of a horror day in 1990 when he was called to the site of one of New Zealand’s worst shootings.
He is one of dozens of first responders who will gather this weekend to mark the 30th anniversary of David Gray’s massacre at Aramoana.
Mr Flett (58), now a St John intensive care paramedic working on the Otago Rescue Helicopter, had not long finished his shift as a station officer in Dunedin on November 13, 1990, when his phone rang.
It was a St John communications staff member, asking him to go back to work urgently as an incident was unfolding.
At the ambulance station, he and another station officer were told there had been a house fire and a shooting in Aramoana.
Mr Flett drove the second ambulance that was sent to the scene.
He remembered the ambulance being quickly overtaken in the winding Aramoana Rd by two police cars containing members of the
Armed Offenders Squad.
He parked the ambulance at a safe arrival point set up near a row of cribs near the entrance to the settlement.
By that point, the first ambulance had already picked up one victim.
He did not know how serious the situation was.
‘‘We could see smoke, from the house fire. We didn’t know numbers at that stage.’’
Then the gunfire started.
He later learned that was David Gray shooting at police officers who had gone in to rescue Chris Cole, who had been shot.
They were quickly told to relocate to nearby Te Ngaru.
‘‘When the shooting started, the whole mood just changed. You know, ‘this is for real’.’’
Then a police van came screaming up the road, a door half hanging off.
Inside were two officers and the injured Mr Cole, lying across their knees.
The ambulance staff quickly got him on to a stretcher, discovering he was conscious but badly wounded. He would later die in hospital. Mr Flett had been in the job for six years at that point, and had never seen anything like it.
Thirty years on, even after responding to events such as the
Christchurch earthquakes, it still stands out.
‘‘It was very, very tragic thing that happened.’’
He thought it would never happen in New Zealand again — until the Christchurch terror attack.
The gun legislation passed as a result was long overdue, he said.
‘‘It was just a nobrainer.’’