Heroes honoured for saving teen

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A ceremony in Timaru on Friday honoured the actions of several young men who saved the life of a former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil after he was badly injured diving into the Kakanui River.

James McCullough, now 18, was saved from drowning by his friends and two strangers after he received a head injury and two fractured vertebrae in the incident.

His friends, Dylan Barber, Jack Mansfield, Michael Jacobs, Cowan Fearn, Brian Bell, Ben Davis, Jacob Donaldson, Jesse Forbes and James Hutton, were awarded merit certificates by Water Safety New Zealand, as were the strangers who helped save Mr McCullough’s life, Kyle Rickard and Kahu Grant.

Mr McCullough’s mother Stephanie McCullough, told the Oamaru Mail the ceremony awarded the “amazing” actions of the men who saved her son’s life.

“They did something absolutely amazing,” she said.

The ceremony provided welcome closure to all those affected by Mr McCullough’s accident, she said.

“It just meant the boys finally got the recognition they deserved.

“It was a very emotional ceremony . . . just lovely.”

One year on, Mr McCullough still had some problems with limited movement in his hand and leg, but did not let that stop him from living his life – he had even gone waterskiing recently, Mrs McCullough said.

“He just thinks he can do everything.”

She was “very proud” of her son and all those who had saved his life, she said.

St John paramedic Gary Story, who attended the scene, said he would always remember the day of Mr McCullough’s accident.

The actions of the young men were crucial in saving Mr McCullough’s life, he said.

“These boys had done everything possible for their mate.

“They had to remove him from the water.

“They grew from boys to men that day.”

He had been asked by Water Safety New Zealand in September last year if the actions of those who saved Mr McCullough should be acknowledged, Mr Story said.

They remained calm and did everything he asked, and were deserving of the formal recognition.

“I only have the highest praise for these boys,” he said.

By DAVID DE LOREAN