The truck driver who slammed on his brakes and scooped a toddler out of harm's way in February last year has been lauded for his heroic actions.
Dennis Roderick was reunited with the little blond-haired boy for the first time today when he received the supreme Beaurepairs Highways Hero award in Wellington.
''You're a little bit heavier now mate,'' Mr Roderick said as he gave Liam Adamson, now aged 2, a hug.
The Paraparaumu grandfather was driving about 40kmh along Mana Esplanade, north of Porirua, last February when he saw Liam just metres in front of him attempting to cross four lanes of traffic.
He swung his 20-metre-long truck and trailer across both southbound lanes to prevent the toddler being run over. He then leapt out of his cab and picked up the boy, who was dressed in a nappy and singlet.
Mr Roderick's heart continued to race as he cradled the then 16-month old in his arms while trying to figure out where the tot had come from.
He spotted an open gate then Liam's distraught mum Michelle Barr. He handed Liam over and drove away, not wanting to hold up traffic.
The family had called Mr Roderick, an owner-driver for Fastway Couriers, to thank him, but today was the first time they had met in person.
''We're just so grateful that our son is here today,'' Liam's dad Jason Adamson said.
''I applaud you for your heroic effort that you displayed mate. It was outstanding.''
Mr Adamson said the gate keeping Liam safe was left open by someone delivering pamphlets.
They had since taught Liam about staying away from the road. Because he was older he understood the dangers, Ms Barr said.
While meeting Mr Roderick had been emotional, it was nothing compared to the evening that Liam escaped.''He was fine, everyone else crumbled around him,'' she said.
Mr Roderick looks at Liam's Lego in the window of the family's home when he drives past and reflects on that evening.
''It was just very fortunate that I was paying attention fully and able to stop. One of the key things for road safety is just total concentration and being fully focused on what you're doing.''
Road policing national manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths congratulated Mr Roderick on his award.
''I know, Dennis, that being a hero was the last thing on your mind when you woke up that morning and went to work.
''You did the ultimate thing, you saved that little boy from a likely death.''
The Highway Heroes award winner is chosen by Police, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Beaurepairs and NZ Trucking magazine.
It has been running for 12 years with more than 120 commercial bus and truck drivers nominated.
Waipukurau truck driver Chris Tupaea was nominated after saving the life of a Hawke's Bay farmer in June.
Mr Tupaea spotted the headlights of the farmer's ute beaming over the bank of a rural road near Waipawa and stopped to investigate.
He found the farmer lying next to his ute, conscious but in a critical condition.
"It was strange because there were skid marks on the road but no hole in the fence, so he obviously went air-borne and cleared it."
Local fire fighters had to use a four-wheel-drive to access the driver before stretchering him 150 metres across a paddock to the ambulance.
Otane fire chief John Oliver praised Mr Tupaea's efforts.
''The man was laying there for about an hour before he came across him.
''He could have been there for a lot longer if he had not been spotted.''
Louis "Louie" Maaka of Lower Hutt put himself on the line to avoid hitting several cars after a ute stopped in front of him to let a car merge onto State Highway 1.
The Crawford Carrying Ltd truck driver was travelling about 80 kilometres per hour last November just north of Otaihanga Rd, Paraparaumu when he slammed on his brakes and swerved his 14-wheel truck between traffic.
Miraculously he did not hit any other vehicles before coming to a stop on a grasspaddock driveway next to the road.
Constable Scott Walker said it was an ''amazing bit of driving''.
"He prevented a potentially very serious accident, where a lot more people could have been involved. He really put himself on the line to avoid hitting anyone else."
Mr Maaka said he didn't have much time to think, as the car "just stopped out ofthe blue".
"All I was thinking was I don't want to hit him, better go around him.
"There were cars on both sides of me, so it was pretty crazy, but I managed somehow."
Bidvest Tauranga truck driver Nicholas Hughes was nominated for rescuing a two-year-old trapped in a car that had flipped into a river.
He was driving on the Thames Coast Rd when a car coming towards him skidded and flipped into the Firth of Thames in November 2011.
The mum who was driving was able to get out of the car, but her daughter Mikayla Wilson was trapped.
Mr Hughes and local man Simon Griffen ran into the water, smashed a car window and removed the little girl. "We just did what any able-bodied man would do in that situation,'' Mr Hughes said.
"Baby's more of a hero than us. She wasn't crying, wasn't bawling or anything with the whole thing of people yelling and that around her."
Hami Smiler's sharp eyes lead him to a man on the brink of death trapped in a car.
The Fulton Hogan truck driver, from Alexandra, drove past a broken post, which ''just didn't seem right'', so he turned around and climbed down a steep bank to find a 29-year-old Wanaka man, who was trapped in his vehicle with life-threatening injuries, in Kawerau Gorge.
"I held his head still so he could keep breathing, and just sat there and waited.
''It seemed like forever."
- The Dominion Post
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