Brave mum overwhelmed

Calls for formal recognition of hero's actions

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 07:42 16/01/2014
Tamsin Duckmanton
DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ
HEROIC ACT: Mother of two Tamsin Duckmanton saved two young children she didn't know by plucking them from a burning van.

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Moves are under way to formally acknowledge a heroic Palmerston North mother who climbed into a burning van to save another woman's children.

But a police award is the last thing on Tamsin Duckmanton's mind - she just wants to return to normal life.

The 26-year-old climbed into a raging inferno to free two trapped children in a van in the Palmerston North Pak 'n Save car park on Tuesday afternoon.

A 10-month-old and a 3-year-old were trapped in car seats, while a 7-year-old was believed to be outside the van shouting for help.

Ms Duckmanton said she was feeling a bit worn out yesterday, but wouldn't have done anything differently.

"It's still surreal, it doesn't even feel like it happened," she said. "It's a bit too much, they're all calling me a hero, but I just would have done what everyone else would have done. It's a bit overwhelming."

Ms Duckmanton said she just ran straight to the van and jumped in to save the crying children.

"If anyone was in my position they would have done it - I hope they would have done it," she said. "But there were a lot of people just standing around, and one man was trying to rip the car seats out."

Ms Duckmanton said her previous interview with the Manawatu Standard was the first time she had been able to sit down and realise what had actually happened.

"I'd had the baby in my hands the whole time the fire brigade was there and I didn't want to get upset while I was holding her, because she was really upset," she said. "If it happened again I would do something, but that was a one-off thing."

Ms Duckmanton said she had been putting off returning to the supermarket as it "would be a bit awkward".

"I tried to avoid it yesterday, but I need to do it," she said. "And I will be taking my kids in with me.

"Even though mine are a lot older, I do sometimes leave them in the car if I'm running in, but now after seeing how easy it was [for something to go wrong] . . . I'm not risking it and I hope everyone else learns a lesson too."

Ms Duckmanton said she was trying to make contact with the mother and hoped to give her a hug and make sure the young children were OK after treatment for burns and smoke inhalation.

A police spokeswoman said an officer had made a recommendation to the area commander for Ms Duckmanton's bravery to be formally recognised.

Fire service investigators have completed their examination of the van, but the cause of the fire will not be publicly released until police have spoken to the family.

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Early indications were that an electrical fault caused the fire.

Unicef child advocacy manager Deborah Morris-Travers said parents were legally obliged to provide appropriate supervision for their children.

"When they're left in a vehicle to their own devices then sometimes terrible things do happen," she said.

"It is a risky thing to do and I totally understand that it is easier for parents to leave their children in the car, but it is not an appropriate thing to do because of the risk and it is against the law, so it's important for parents to weigh up that risk and take their children with them."

- Manawatu Standard

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