Off-duty police officers save Auckland man's life

Maasi Tongotongo, centre, reflects on the cardiac arrest that almost took his life.
JARRED WILLIAMSON / FAIRFAX NZ

Maasi Tongotongo, centre, reflects on the cardiac arrest that almost took his life.

Two off-duty police officers have reunited with a man whose life they saved after they found him slumped over the wheel of his car.

Wellington-based Inspector Kelly Ryan and Senior Sergeant Wade Fale were on leave in Auckland when they came across a nose-to-tail crash near Mangere.

It was before Easter weekend and a truck had crashed into the back of another car.

Inspector Kelly Ryan, left, and Senior Sergeant Wade Fale reunite with Maasi Tongotongo at Middlemore Hospital.
JARRED WILLIAMSON / FAIRFAX NZ

Inspector Kelly Ryan, left, and Senior Sergeant Wade Fale reunite with Maasi Tongotongo at Middlemore Hospital.

Inside they found Maasi Tongotongo slumped over the wheel after suffering cardiac arrest. He had no pulse.

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 "He wasn't moving. We immediately dragged him out of the truck and started giving him CPR," Ryan said.

Delwyn Roberts, an Auckland district health nurse, arrived soon after and assisted.

"She was amazing in helping us, we also managed to get his airway open."

After about five minutes, the trio managed to get Tongotongo breathing.

But soon after, his heart stopped beating again. So CPR was applied once more.

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"It happened a couple of times. After about 12 minutes you could hear the sirens coming, so we cut his top off and got him ready if he needed defibrillation [when the ambulance arrived]."

Ryan said Tongotongo's heart stopped again shortly after the ambulance arrived. Again, they managed to get him breathing before he was taken to hospital.

Ryan, who grew up nearby in Mangere Bridge, said she was surprised to see so many bystanders just watching. 

"If there's one message, it's that everyone should learn CPR," she said.

"It's so important and if you've got some confidence in doing something ... doing anything is better than nothing."

The two officers and Tongotongo had an emotional reunion at Middlemore Hospital nearly a week on from the incident. 

He had spent part of the weekend on life support. He's now recovering in hospital.

Ryan and Fale both flew back up from Wellington to visit Tongotongo.

"I wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for you guys," Tongotongo said to the officers.

For more information on learning First Aid and CPR, visit wfa.org.nz/heartbeatstjohn.org.nz/First-Aid or redcross.org.nz/first-aid.

 - Stuff

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