Head boy, athlete in heroic river rescue

HUG FOR A HERO: Head boy and Part-time hero Angus Pauley pictured with his proud parents Helen and Gary Pauley at the High Street Bridge where the river rescue drama unfolded.
HUG FOR A HERO: Head boy and Part-time hero Angus Pauley pictured with his proud parents Helen and Gary Pauley at the High Street Bridge where the river rescue drama unfolded.

A head boy and a Marlborough multisport champion rescued a 12-year-old girl from the flooded Taylor River in Blenheim this morning.

Marlborough Boys' College head boy Angus Pauley, 17, was in the car with his mum on his way to school when he saw a girl in the flood water below High St bridge.

The girl was in her school uniform trying to push her bike across a footbridge.

She was wearing a helmet and had a backpack on. The water was up to her waist, Angus said.He got out of the car and went to the top of the High St bridge to get a better view. ''I yelled out 'are you ok?', and she said 'I need my mum','' he said.

''I knew there was something wrong, that she needed help.''

He raced down the path to the river bank, but by the time he got there, the girl's bike was gone and she was being swept down the river.

Angus started running along the river bank next to her.''She was screaming and I just kept talking to her saying 'don't worry, it's going to be ok, just keep your head up, keep breathing','' he said.''

She was just panicking and I could hear her gargling water. ''He stripped down to his underwear and socks and raced down the bank as the girl was swept along with the current.

The river dipped, and the girl got sucked under. ''I just counted 'one, two', and then she popped back up again.

''She was just gasping and screaming and gargling water, I knew at that point something had to happen.''

He was reluctant to jump in as he was alone and didn't want to end up stranded in the flood, also needing rescuing, he said.

He kept running and spotted a man, who turned out to be Jeremy MacKenzie, a Blenheim multisport champion.

He yelled out to MacKenzie, asking if he'd watch while he went in the water.

''He gave me the nod, so I went straight in to the water, swam over to her, lifted her up and made sure she was above the water. She was quite tired after struggling in the river for so long.

''MacKenzie met the couple at the side of the river bank, but as the girl grabbed on to him, the weight of her uniform and backpack pulled the trio back into the water, Angus said. MacKenzie told him they needed to get back to the bank, he said.

They managed to make it back, and MacKenzie lifted the girl out of the water then Angus carried her up as police arrived.

Both he and the girl were taken to Wairau Hospital in Blenheim.

He was grateful for MacKenzie for coming to his aid.''It was such a godsend to have him there,'' he said.

''You couldn't have had a better guy turn up.''

Despite his heroic efforts, he did what anyone would do, he said.''You don't really think, your instincts sort of just kick in,'' he said.''

If you're going to get in the water and do something like that you can't have a doubt in your mind, you've gotta just go for it. You do what needs to be done.'' 

Rescue a joint effort

Helping save the young girl from the flooded Taylor River was no more than what Blenheim winemaker Jeremy McKenzie would hope others would do for one of his children.

McKenzie was on his way to work when he saw Angus running down the river.

''I saw this guy running along the river bank with no clothes on and wondered what was going. I thought maybe he was being chased by the cops,'' McKenzie said.

However, when he saw bystanders on the High Street bridge and pulled over he realised what was going on, and immediately sprinted down the river.

The top multi-sport athlete quickly caught up with Angus. ''I told him to jump in and grab her and I would go downstream and grab them both.

I knew there was a slower part of the river that had an eddy so we just needed to get her in there,'' he said.

McKenzie sprinted downstream, jumped into the fast flowing river and grabbed hold of Angus and the girl. The two men then kicked into the eddy with the girl and got ashore.

''I got some water out of her by holding her over my arm and gave her a few wacks on the back, which got her to cough the water up. Then we put her in the recovery position.''

He was full of praise for Angus and the way he dealt with the situation. ''It was a real joint effort. People jumping into a river to save someone can go pear shaped, but Angus did really well,'' McKenzie said.

The whole ordeal was over in around five minutes, he said. After the rescue McKenzie went home, had a shower and went to work. 

The Marlborough Express