Honour for rescue heroes
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.