Recognition richly deserved

16:00, Jan 31 2014
Jock's mates
Jock's mates

Waitaki's "band of brothers" are officially "heroes".

The group of teenagers, who dubbed themselves the "band of brothers" while at Waitaki Boys' High School, received hero awards at the Timaru District Council yesterday.

The ceremony marked a year to the day since they, along with two strangers - Kahu Grant and Kyle Rickard - rescued James McCullough from drowning.

BAND OF BROTHERS: James (Jock) McCullough, second from front left, is surrounded by those who saved his life after he hit his head on a rock in the Kakanui River.

James, known to his family and friends as Jock, was swimming with his friends in the Kakanui River.

They had checked a swimming hole for dangerous objects. When they were confident it was safe, Jock dived in, hitting his head on a rock.

He sustained a "full depth" laceration on his head and broke two vertebrae.


His friends - Jesse Forbes, Ben Davis, James Hutton, Cowan Fern, Dylan Barber, Michael Jacobs, Jack Mansfield, Jacob Donaldson and Brian Bell - went to his rescue.

Kyle and Kahu also went to their aid, helping the group stabilise Jock until paramedics arrived.

St John paramedic Gary Story, who attended the scene, praised the boys for their efforts. He said they did everything right.

He recalls their determination to "bash" through gorse while directing him to the scene. He instructed them to help carry $30,000 to $40,000 worth of life-saving equipment, warning them not to get it wet.

"Those guys [were] in shorts and bare feet [walking] through bush and gorse - it was amazing."

He said there was no doubt the boys deserved their awards.

"I only have the highest praise for those boys. They were faced with a terrifying ordeal. To see a mate injured in such a way is not easy. It's you guys that make my job easy, by doing what you did."

He said they had done everything they could for their mate, which had resulted from a "bunch of boys doing what boys should be doing - out having fun".

Jock's mum, Stephanie, said throughout his recovery, his doctor's notes made it "quite clear" that his mates saved his life.

"There's a lot of people I owe, big time," Jock said. "You did a fantastic job at getting me out of a very difficult area."

He also thanked the many people who visited him during his three months in hospital, particularly his family.

"You never left my side, even when I told you to."

The Timaru Herald