Nurse Grant Wooding said he was shocked and humbled to receive the award from the Governor-General for a dramatic incident two years ago in which he saved a stranger’s life by pulling him from a burning vehicle.
The man’s shoes had caught fire and Wooding used his bare hands to stamp out the flames. Once he had the man out of the car, his first aid efforts were interrupted by having to drag the man further from the crashed car after explosions and fire engulfed the vehicle.
The community mental health nurse said he was at his mother’s house in Peel Forest, near Geraldine, when he heard “an almighty crash” and saw a car had hit a tree.
Wooding rushed to the scene, hurrying to free the unconscious driver from his car. It had already caught fire and the flames were spreading.
It looked, obviously, very serious right from the outset,” he said.
Wooding is a registered nurse and had previously volunteered as a paramedic, so had skills and experience to rely on when rescuing the driver.
“The guy’s not in a good shape, I can tell that I need to get him out pretty swiftly because the front of the car has caught fire,” he said.
It took Wooding a few tries to open the door. When he reached the driver, the man was not breathing.
“I can’t remember feeling a lot going through my mind. I was really just in the moment.”
Using the advanced first aid kit he kept in his truck, Wooding worked on the man for some time, with the help of others who also came to the rescue.
The Royal Humane Society says although Grant is trained as a nurse and paramedic, the circumstances put him at a high risk of injury or death. The driver of the vehicle would almost certainly have died had Grant not responded in the timely and brave way that he did.
Wooding was one of 10 recipients to receive a Royal Humane Society of New Zealand Silver Medal from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy at Government House last week. The medals are awarded for acts of bravery where rescuers put their own lives at risk to assist others whose lives are in peril.
“I think I was the right guy at the right time,” Wooding told Herald reporter Melissa Nightingale.
Wooding said he had been afraid of the immediate danger while pulling the man from the car.
“I think anyone would be. But … it’s someone’s life, you know? And you do what you can to try and get them out of a bad situation, and fortunately we were able to do that.
“Several times we had to … pull him away from the car as it was going up in flames. There were a few explosions.”
Wooding still thinks about the incident.
“It’s undeniable that it does affect you. On the day, you just leap into it with both hands and do what you need to, and later on you have some time to reflect.
“I’m pleased that this gentleman’s got the opportunity to still be a part of his family and I know he’s got young grandchildren and I know that they’re thrilled to still have him around. That, for me, is the biggest outcome from this, is that, you know, you get to spare a life and he gets to continue his life, and I think that’s a pretty awesome thing for a family.”
Wooding got “quite a shock” and thought someone was pulling a prank on him when he found out he was receiving the award.
“I don’t think I will still fully believe it until I’m standing in front of the Governor-General, to be honest.”
He said he was humbled, proud, grateful and honoured.
“I’m not one to sort of talk about these things too much. I do think about the event and what happened, and yeah, I’m just glad I was there and I was able to help this gentleman when he needed it most.”