Warriors hero rescues woman from inferno

NEIL REID
Last updated 16:30 25/11/2012
carl jennings
HERO: Carl Jennings.

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Warriors' strength and conditioning coach Carl Jennings was one of the heroes who risked their lives to rescue a woman from a "raging inferno" on Friday night.

Jennings has told how he and two other neighbours rushed into a two-storey house in their Auckland suburb of Orakei, after it "exploded" at about 9.45pm.

The men battled flames which rapidly engulfed the house, and were threatening a neighbouring house, to rescue the woman.

The woman, in the house alone, was yesterday listed as being in a serious condition in the burns unit at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital.

Former Crusaders trainer Jennings - who joined the Warriors' new-look coaching staff last month - yesterday told Sunday News: "We heard a car alarm go off. We went out on the balcony to see what was happening and then noticed that the house was on fire.

"I said to my wife to call the fire brigade, I put my shoes on and as I was running down the side of the house there was a big explosion . . . I think the doors blew off the front of the garage.

"There was smoke billowing out of the front of the house, my wife was behind me screaming at me not to go inside of the house. But then I heard screaming from inside of the house, so I went in.

"If people ask me, 'Why the hell did you go and do that?', you think if you were in the same situation, or my wife was in the same situation, or the kids, then somebody would go and do that for me." Jennings braved the flames and thick smoke to make his way to the injured woman. He began dragging her towards the downstairs garage when the other two neighbours rushed in to join the rescue.

"The smoke and the heat was really bad," Jennings said. "I said to these other two fellows, 'Give me a hand', and we pulled her over some debris onto the side of a path [outside the house].

"By then the house literally just went up into an inferno. Ten seconds later . . . I don't think we would have got her out." Jennings said they were then joined by a woman, who administered first-aid until the ambulance arrived.

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, described the fire as a "raging inferno".

Fearful that flames would engulf their own home, the man and his wife fled the property with their two young children.

"I went down the stairs [of our deck] . . . we didn't really realise what had happened," the man said.

"The fire was pouring out the back of the house like a raging inferno.

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"The fence between that property and our property, and the trees, were alight.

"We just grabbed the kids, threw them in the car and high-tailed it down the driveway.

"By the time we got the kids in the car and down the driveway . . . four guys were carrying her out on a sheet."

The man said his family had been relaxing in their lounge when they were startled by an explosion.

"We were just watching a movie when the house exploded basically . . . ," he said.

"There were about three real big blasts . . . it was like a car had landed on our balcony right outside our window . . . some of our windows downstairs are cracked.

"It was like a bonfire that you build on the beach with a real roar, but it was a house-size bonfire . . . it was huge. There were about three real big blasts."

Neighbours said the rescued woman lived by herself.

Police and fire service staff were yesterday scouring the badly damaged property.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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