Men’s bravery recognised

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Tuesday, April 21

Two North Otago heroes who saved a Fuchsia Creek woman from floodwaters last year received medals for their bravery in front of more than 30 people yesterday.

Five Forks farmer Robert Borst and North Otago Search and Rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Peter Muldrew were awarded bronze medals by the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand (RHSNZ) during a ceremony at the Oamaru Opera House for their rescue of Rhoda Davidson, whose vehicle became trapped when the Kakanui River flooded near Fuchsia Creek on April 18 last year.

The ceremony began with an introduction from Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher who said it was nice to be able to publicly thank the pair for what they did.

RHSNZ secretary Norm West spoke and read out a citation of what happened on the day. The medals, as well as certificates were presented to Mr Borst and Sgt Muldrew by Mr Kircher.

Only about 2000 awards had been given by the RHSNZ since it began in October 1898, with about 730 bronze medals being awarded.

Mr West said it was a pleasure to be able to award these two men for their bravery.

“All our awards go to people who have put their own lives at risk to save a life.”

That is the only reason the society will give out an award, he said.

The awards are graded depending on the amount of risk that people put themselves in, with only 21 people receiving a gold medal in the 116 years the RHSNZ has been in existence.

Mr Borst said he was really honoured, and a bit surprised to receive the award.

The rescue felt pretty full-on at the time but the danger of the situation did not really dawn on him until he got home and spoke to his wife, who was not very happy, Mr Borst said.

But he was glad it had all turned out well in the end and pleased they were able to get Mrs Davidson off the roof of her car and into safety.

Sgt Muldrew said it was nice to be honoured in such a way and for the RHSNZ to award the medals.

Mrs Davidson, who was present at the ceremony, said it was really great for them to finally be acknowledged for rescuing her.

On the day of the incident, Mrs Davidson had been trying to cross the Kakanui River at Fuchsia Creek, when her vehicle was swept downriver by the rising floodwaters.

The vehicle came to rest in a paddock, where it was caught against a wire fence.

Mrs Davidson escaped the car by smashing through the driver’s window and climbed on to the roof, while the waters were rising rapidly around her.

A helicopter rescue was considered but was rejected as too dangerous because the vehicle had come to rest below powerlines.

Mr Borst came to the rescue in his 14-tonne digger, driving into the floodwaters before extending the digger arm to full length with Sgt Muldrew in the bucket to pull Mrs Davidson to safety.

The Five Forks farmer had initially tried to use a tractor but found the water was too strong.

Following the rescue, which took about two hours, Mrs Davidson was attended to by a paramedic and treated for hypothermia.

The award citation stated that the actions of Mr Borst and Sgt Muldrew in “putting their own lives at risk had ensured the safe rescue of Rhoda Davidson, undoubtedly saving her life”.

By Ruby Harfield

PHOTO: RUBY HARFIELD – Five Forks farmer Robert Borst (left) and North Otago Search and Rescue co-ordinator Sergeant Peter Muldrew were recognised for their bravery at a ceremony
yesterday in rescuing Fuchsia Creek resident Rhoda Davidson (middle).