Hon­our for res­cue he­roes

Waitaki Herald - - NEWS - By CHAR­LIE MITCHELL

Two men in­volved in a dra­matic digger res­cue for a woman trapped on her car in a surg­ing river have re­ceived brav­ery awards.

Farmer Robert Borst and po­lice Sergeant Peter Muldrew, both of Oa­maru, have re­ceived Royal Hu­mane So­ci­ety awards for their part in the res­cue last year.

The men saved the life of KFC worker Rhoda David­son, who was trapped on the roof of her car which had been swal­lowed by rag­ing flood­wa­ters dur­ing a tur­bu­lent Easter storm.

Her car had been swept off the road and into the river, be­com­ing caught on a fence. She hud­dled on top of the ve­hi­cle for nearly two hours as the river rose be­neath her.

Borst, a dairy farmer, was mov­ing cows when he heard a com­mo­tion near his prop­erty.

He raced down on his mo­tor­bike and saw the dra­matic scene un­fold­ing.

‘‘ When I saw Rhoda sit­ting there on the car I knew time was cer­tainly against us,’’ he said.

He got his trac­tor, but found the wa­ter was too swift. He rushed to get his digger, which he drove into the surg­ing river.

‘‘When I took the digger down there the fright­en­ing thing was the un­known – had the road washed away? Could the digger keep go­ing?’’

‘‘The old hands were shak­ing’’, when he ma­noeu­vred the digger’s bucket out to­wards David­son, aware he could be swept away in the flood.

In­side the bucket was off-duty po­lice of­fi­cer Peter Muldrew, who was coin­ci­den­tally nearby when re­ports of the predica­ment came in.

Muldrew – a search and res­cue co­or­di­na­tor – ar­rived on the scene and climbed into the digger’s bucket, dan­gling above the rag­ing river to reach David­son.

‘‘I re­mem­ber I got boomed out in the bucket across to the car and we got up to where the A pil­lar is on the ve­hi­cle,’’ he said.

‘‘I looked down and saw the wa­ter level was right up to the rear vi­sion mir­ror of the car. Sort of look­ing around I re­alised it wasn’t the safest place in the world to be.’’

David­son’s car was al­most sub­merged when Muldrew reached for her and placed her into the bucket.

She was treated for hy­pother­mia, but was oth­er­wise un­harmed. The mens’ ac­tions ‘‘un­doubt­edly saved her life,’’ the Royal Hu­mane So­ci­ety said in its jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the awards.

Oa­maru mayor Gary Kircher pre­sented the medals in a cer­e­mony at the Oa­maru Opera House.

David­son was there to watch her saviours re­ceive their medals.

Both men said they had vivid mem­o­ries of the day, and were hum­bled to re­ceive the awards.

‘‘It was quite sur­real, how it all tran­spired.

‘‘I must ad­mit af­ter­wards, on re­flec­tion, it was a bit fright­en­ing,’’ Borst said.

‘‘It was for­tu­nate enough we had a favourable out­come in a pretty sticky sit­u­a­tion.’’

Borst’s wife was ‘‘ hor­ri­fied’’ when she saw the pho­tos of the res­cue, but his fam­ily were ‘‘chuffed’’ with the award, he said.

Muldrew said he was just do­ing his job.

‘‘It’s pretty good re­ally, and it’s a great thing to be recog­nised for es­sen­tially what I would call do­ing my job,’’ he said.

‘‘Of course my fam­ily and that are pretty proud, so it’s kind of nice.’’

Brav­ery awards have been given to Oa­maru men Robert Borst, left, and Peter Muldrew, who saved Rhoda David­son’s life.

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