New dad rescues family from fire

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2014
Will Kennedy
NICOLE GOURLEY/ Fairfax NZ
BRAVE MAN: Will Kennedy helped save the lives of 13 people in an Invercargill house fire.

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With his wife and newborn son in the car, Will Kennedy saw flames engulfing a caravan and house - and instinctively stopped and ran towards the fire.

Minutes before, at 4.30am on Sunday, Kennedy had been driving his 3-hour-old son Billy and exhausted partner Lou from Southland Hospital.

Then he saw the fire.

"I thought s..., this doesn't look good," Kennedy said from a Riverton building site yesterday.

However, the Southland builder was not the only person who raced towards the burning house, which had 13 people inside, including young children.

"There was another woman who had pulled up and took the lead," he said.

The pair began banging on the doors and smashing the windows.

"We didn't know if anyone was inside but you had to make sure," Kennedy said.

A caravan out the back was engulfed in flames with the fire spreading to the wooden house.

"The heat coming off the caravan was intense and glass was exploding," he said. "There was no way we could get to the caravan."

The banging and shouting of Kennedy and the unidentified woman he calls the "real hero" woke those inside, including four young children.

"Four kids came out a door of the house, close to the where the caravan was on fire," he said. "The lady grabbed a couple of the wee ones and the other two followed her to my truck."

The four children were kept warm inside the cab with Lou and baby Billy, he said. Some of those who emerged from the burning house were hysterical and visibly upset.

"I think there was a lot of shock and they had just woken up."

The unidentified woman who helped him get the occupants to safety deserved the praise, he insisted.

"We didn't even exchange names or numbers."

Hearing someone had died in the caravan was gutting and he felt for those hit by the tragedy.

"I never got to speak with the family."

While Kennedy and the woman could not save the woman in the incinerated caravan, police praised their actions for potentially saving many other lives.

Kelly Wishart, mother of one of the young children in the house, expressed her gratitude towards Kennedy and the unknown woman. "I would like to say a big thank you to the person that pretty much saved my daughter's life in the fire," she said.

Wishart had driven past the house yesterday morning and seen how serious it was. "I could have lost my daughter if it wasn't for someone stopping."

CARAVAN VICTIM NAMED

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Shannon Day is mourning the loss of a loving mother.

In an email, she says the 45-year-old woman who died in a caravan fire in the early hours of Sunday morning on the Bluff highway "was my mother Teresa Anne Thompson".

"Friends and family are very distraught at the moment. My sister is flying home from Australia and I will be flying home from Auckland also."

There are messages of condolences on Teresa Thompson's Facebook page acknowledging her death.

Police, who have completed the scene investigation, have yet to formally identify the 45-year-old woman found in the caravan.

Southland area manager prevention, Inspector Olaf Jensen, said the death has been referred to the coroner.

- The Southland Times

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