Life-savers spur donation
There’s no doubt about it — two surf lifeguards saved Regan Gallagher’s life.
But it wasn’t a surf rescue — they used the skills they learned as lifeguards at a crash on the Te Puke Highway in March.
Regan lost the lower part of his right leg in the March 11 crash, but says it was the efforts of two Pukehina Surf Rescue lifeguards — who by coincidence came across the scene within minutes of one another — that ensured the consequences weren’t much worse.
Kirwan Te Hiini, a 16-year-old Tauranga Boys’ College student, and Andy McDowell, were nominated for Bay of Plenty Surf Lifesaving’s monthly rescue award in April, coming second, and Regan has acknowledged their efforts by making a donation to the club that will go towards funding high-level first aid courses for lifeguards.
Regan was riding a motorcycle involved in a crash with a car. In the collision he flew several metres and landed on Maketu¯ Rd.
He lost 15 units of blood and ended up in hospital for 23 days.
While there were others already at the scene, Andy was the first of the two lifeguards to arrive.
”[Regan] was the main priority because I really thought he was going to die,” says Andy.
“He was in and out of consciousness. I was saying words of affirmation, telling him he was going to be okay to keep him with us because if he fainted or passed out we weren’t going to get him back.”
Regan says he remembers “hyperventilation and drifting off”.
“I remember Andy yelling at me ‘deeply’ — to breath deeply — and I did and it worked.”
Kirwan looked to Andy for advice and was sent to settle the driver of the car who had also been injured.
Kirwan says he had a good idea what to do because part of his surf lifesaving training had involved car crash scenarios. “I’m stoked I could help,” he says. As Andy drove towards the scene, people driving in the opposite direction were flashing their lights at him.
“I just assumed it had happened a while ago, but when I got there, the bike was still on top of him.”
He says those people should have stopped to help, but he thinks people don’t because they don’t know how to respond — which is why he is pleased Regan’s donation will go towards improving first aid skills.
“The idea is to get more people through first aid so there are more people running around with first aid tickets,” says Regan.
Regan worked as a locomotive engineer with Kiwirail prior to the crash, and is unsure if he will be able to return to the same job.
“But Kiwirail have been massively supportive — they will retain me and retrain me.”
Andy says it was good to be able to use the skills learned as a lifeguard in a different emergency situation to the beach.
Regan Gallagher (centre) who lost his leg after a motorcycle accident in March meets up with the two Pukehina surf lifesavers who saved his life, Kirwan Te Hiini, left, and Andy McDowell.