A Wellington trio who helped neighbouring children three times in one night have been praised for preventing a fire and rescuing the children from their drunk mother.
Police say their actions saved the two children, aged 3 and 4, from a potentially perilous domestic situation last Friday.
One of the three, a 20-year-old Victoria University student, said she and her flatmates found the children's mother drunk outside her house about 10pm and returned her home, where her children were sleeping. They then returned home, above the woman's house.
"She was lying on the footpath," the woman said. "She was the most intoxicated person I think I've ever seen. She had been screaming, she couldn't stand up."
About 15 minutes later the trio smelled smoke and rushed back downstairs. "A heater had been knocked over in the boys' bedroom. I'm 100 per cent [sure] that house would have gone up in flames if we'd been even five minutes later," she said.
Senior Sergeant Iain Saunders, who later attended the house, said the mother had failed to "perform the duties of a parent".
"The mum was in such a state that she wasn't even able to recognise the risk from the fire. She was sitting on the floor in the hallway holding the boys. There were burns through the carpet, a big patch, almost through to the floorboards.
"If these guys hadn't come and intervened there would have been a house fire with all sorts of unpleasant consequences," he said.
The neighbours put out the fire with a damp towel and opened all the windows, before trying to resettle the children and get the mother into bed.
They returned home again, but soon heard the children distressed and screaming for help. The drunk mother had gone back into their room, frightening them.
"[We] got jackets on the boys and took them upstairs and put Finding Nemo on. It took a while but we got them to top-and-tail on the couch."
Mr Saunders said the neighbours had done the right thing.
"The worst thing is when people don't act. There's far too much apathy in the community. You hear of it an awful lot and the consequences are often quite spectacular - you see the fires and the homicides."
The case was an excellent example of how community partnerships worked, he said.
A woman, 38, appeared in Wellington District Court yesterday on two charges of wilful neglect of a child in a way likely to cause injury and one charge of obstructing police.
She was remanded on bail to reappear in two weeks. Her children remain in state care.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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