A young farmer found himself at the centre of a dramatic roadside rescue, pulling two badly injured tourists free of their wrecked and burning car after a crash on a remote South Island road.
George Fox was heading out to feed his stock when he came across two people trapped in their smashed rental car.
The 18-year-old farmer helped cut the two tourists, from Hong Kong, free just minutes before the car became engulfed in flames.
The man and woman, both 28, had been rushing to Kaikoura to make it in time for a whale watching trip, when their rental car went off the road and hit a tree on Leader Rd, near Waiau, at 9.15am on Saturday.
The woman is in a critical condition at Christchurch Hospital, and her family are on their way from Hong Kong to be with her. The man is also in intensive care.
Police say that if not for Fox and the efforts of two bee-keepers, the tourists would have succumbed to the flames.
Fox, a sheep and beef farmer, had delayed feeding out his stock until after watching the America's Cup, so it was a fluke he was driving down the road right after the crash occurred, he said.
The motor was on fire and he thought, "bloody hell, I've just got to get them out".
"I cut the seat belts off and the guy had his foot stuck behind the brake. I was bloody struggling to get him out."
The man was conscious and told him to cut his female passenger out first.
As he did so, two local beekeepers arrived on the scene.
They pulled the man free.
A couple of minutes later, the whole car was alight.
"It was pretty toast."
It was the first crash he had ever seen, and he was a "bit shaken up" afterwards.
"It's not exactly what you expect when you're going to feed out."
His efforts were "no real biggie", he said.
"I don't know if it was heroic, but yeah. At least I was in a position to do something."
Hanmer police senior constable Nic Wenborn said the couple was "extremely lucky" Fox arrived when he did.
Another five minutes and the couple would not have made it.
"They are very lucky that it happened where and when it [did]."
The Westpac rescue helicopter airlifted the couple to Christchurch Hospital.
Wenborn said another couple heading to whale watching in Kaikoura passed by while he was at the scene of the crash.
They told him their navigation system had given the remote route as the fastest way from Hanmer.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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