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Hero thanked for life

MONICA TISCHLER
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014
TJ Kopa and family

LUCKY ESCAPE: TJ Kopa, 21, pictured with parents Kopa Lafaele, left, and Tai Kopa, was in a car accident on Rosebank Rd in January and owes his life to Richard Kumar, a witness who acted quickly at the scene.

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TJ Kopa wants to thank the "hero" who saved his life.

The Avondale resident was a passenger in a car that overturned along Rosebank Rd on January 7 and landed on a residential fence, Western Leader, January 9.

The 20-year-old driver wasn't wearing a seat belt and fell on top of Mr Kopa, 21.

Mr Kopa couldn't breathe because of the weight and says the seat belt was cutting into his neck.

That's when a hero stepped in.

"He pushed the driver off me. I would have died without his help. I couldn't breathe and he saved me," Mr Kopa says.

Kiwi Auto Parts New Zealand owner Richard Kumar witnessed the accident and was first at the scene.

He saw Mr Kopa couldn't breathe and broke the glass in the front window to move the driver off him.

He also told an employee to get a knife from his nearby workshop to cut the seat belt.

Mr Kumar says the ambulance took about 20 minutes to arrive and by then Mr Kopa would have "gone" if he hadn't intervened.

"If I had waited another minute he would have died and I'd have regretted not doing anything my whole life."

He urges witnesses to act quickly at the scene of an accident.

"If you can help save someone's life - don't wait."

Mr Kopa's parents Kopa Lafaele and Tai Kopa know just how lucky they are to have their eldest son home safe.

They want to thank Mr Kumar, paramedics and hospital staff for their help.

The family visited Mr Kumar on Mr Kopa's 21st birthday on Monday, to personally acknowledge his courageous efforts.

"TJ's birthday was on St Patrick's Day," Mr Lafaele says.

"Green is the colour of life and we needed to find this special man.

"We want to thank him and hopefully it helps others to act before the ambulance comes and maybe save a life.

"He's TJ's hero."

Mr Kopa spent a month in hospital with a broken hip and pelvis while the driver was released the following day with no injuries.

Mr Kopa trained as an engineer and was working as a commercial painter before the accident.

It'll take a year for him to fully recover from his injuries and Mr Kumar has offered to help him back into the workforce when he's ready.

Police officer in charge of the accident King Sun says the driver was on a learner licence and will appear in court on April 3 charged with driving dangerously causing injury.

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- Western Leader

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