Bravery award for woman who rescued children from burning van

Tamsin Duckmanton, who saved kids from burning van outside Pak n save in Palmerston North, says she is humbled by the ...
DAVID UNWIN / FAIRFAX NZ.

Tamsin Duckmanton, who saved kids from burning van outside Pak n save in Palmerston North, says she is humbled by the attention.

Tamsin Duckmanton had nightmares for weeks after leaping into a burning van to rescue two small children.

The Palmerston North woman, who was on Thursday awarded a silver medal for bravery by the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand, still cannot ignore a child alone in a car after the daring rescue last year.

On January 14, 2014, Duckmanton was packing groceries into her car in the Pak 'n Save carpark in Palmertston North when her son alerted her to a fire in a nearby van.

The inside of a van that was destroyed by a fire.
WARWICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

The inside of a van that was destroyed by a fire.

"I heard "there's kids in there", and that's when I jumped in."

The young children - a 10-month-old, a three-year-old, and a seven-year-old - had been left in a van while their mother went to a pharmacy to pick up medication.

A seven-year-old had already managed to get free and call for help.

Duckmanton said there were guys trying to rip the car seats out of the car but she knew that was not going to work.

"I just jumped in and unbuckled the baby and her sister."

The flames inside the van were "huge" and there was a moment where she was unsure whether they would make it out alive, she said.

"I was having nightmares for a few weeks after it happened, I think I was in shock. I do think about it everyday, if I see a car with kids in it by themselves I do react to that. 

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"I have to stay there until the parents get there."

A police investigation found the fire was  caused by the children playing with matches. 

Palmerston North Fire Service station officer Bevan Clark, who attended the incident, said if Duckmanton had waited for the firefighters to arrive it might have been too late.

"It is easy for people to step back and think, "someone else will handle this", and no one does anything. For someone to get in there and render assistance at the risk of themselves too, it's great.

"She really was the right person at the right time, she did an awesome job.

"People like that need to be rewarded."

Duckmanton said the mother of the children called her a few days after the incident to thank her for saving her children.

She has not heard from the family since.

The mother wanted to move on, she said.

"I hope the kids are good. I hope they're growing up to be good girls."

Duckmanton received her medal  in a ceremony at Government House.

The Royal Humane Society medals are awarded for acts of bravery where rescuers put their own lives at risk to assist others whose lives are in peril.

John Oakes and Ben Dare were also being recognised for their bravery. at the ceremony on Thursday.

Dare was recognised for saving the life of his injured climbing partner, Scott Blackford-Scheele, in their attempt to climb Anidesha Chuli in Nepal in April 2013.

Oakes, a helicopter pilot, is being was recognised for going to the aid of three people injured in a helicopter crash in Antarctica, ensuring their overnight survival until the weather enabled them to be lifted to safety the following day.

 - Stuff

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