Sur­vives a shaky start

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

‘‘These were ran­dom strangers that un­der any other cir­cum­stances I never would have crossed paths with, but I’m now so con­nected to them be­cause we were with each other in the most vul­ner­a­ble state you could pos­si­bly be in. It was al­most clo­sure to see them all again and talk about it with peo­ple who re­ally do un­der­stand.’’

The re­u­nion was or­gan­ised af­ter Sharplin’s sur­vival story, and on­go­ing bat­tle with nerve dam­age as a re­sult of the ac­ci­dent, was re­ported last month. Sharplin, then 19, was driv­ing from Kaiko¯ura to Blen­heim.

As the four strangers united, hugs were ex­changed, fol­lowed by an end­less stream of chat­ter over lunch at the lo­cal pub as they re­called the night.

Sharplin hopped in White’s van and they car­ried on up the coast un­til they came to aman stand­ing on the road, madly wav­ing a torch. Fos­kett had stopped the pair mo­ments be­fore they drove into a gap where the earth had opened up. He had fin­ished his shift 10 min­utes be­fore and was on his way home to Pic­ton.

‘‘I could not hold onto the car door and keep my feet on the ground. And that’s when the ground started open­ing up,’’ he re­called.

Fos­kett was on the first pas­sen­ger train to Kaiko¯ura since the line was re­stored. At its open­ing, Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern asked him, ‘‘Were you ever scared?"

‘‘No, we were too busy to be scared,’’ he replied. ‘‘Ev­ery­body found a job to do and they did it. We got our­selves or­gan­ised.’’

This re­u­nion was more im­por­tant to him than meet­ing the prime min­is­ter.

Thom was also sig­nalled by Fos­kett on the road. He cred­its Fos­kett for sav­ing his life.

At the re­u­nion, Thom firmly shook Fos­kett’s hand. ‘‘I’ll take this time to thank you very much, oth­er­wise I wouldn’t be here. I think about it quite a lot.’’

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