Logging tragedy strikes brave family

COURAGE UNDER FIRE: Georgina Langford, left, named in the NZ Bravery Awards for saving the life of Brendon Boyd, centre. Jan Boyd, right, and her husband John, were also honoured in the awards.
COURAGE UNDER FIRE: Georgina Langford, left, named in the NZ Bravery Awards for saving the life of Brendon Boyd, centre. Jan Boyd, right, and her husband John, were also honoured in the awards.

Michael Langford died tragically on Friday, not knowing of the bravery accolades his family was about to receive.

But his sister Georgina Langford knows how proud he would have been.

Georgina, her mother Jan Boyd and her stepfather John Boyd have been named in today's 2013 Bravery Honours list for their handling of a near-fatal shooting in the Boyds' Tadmor home, south of Nelson, on the night of April 21, 2011.

They are now gathering in the same home with family from around the country and overseas, amid mixed emotions of how they can mark the awards, which have revived memories of a terrible time, and to mourn Michael, who was killed in a logging accident at Foxhill on Friday.

Georgina, who has arrived back in Tadmor from Canterbury, where she is second in charge on a Leeston dairy farm, said the sadness was helped by her knowing how pleased her brother would have been with the award.

The 24-year-old is one of only two people to receive the New Zealand Bravery Decoration in this year's awards. She is also one of only seven civilians to have received the decoration since 1999 (the remainder being police, defence and fire service personnel), and is among only a few women who have received it.

Despite the pain of the family's loss, she said she was "pretty honoured to have got this award. It was a big surprise".

When her mother Jan Boyd phoned to tell her that a letter had arrived in an envelope embossed with the Crown insignia, she initially thought it must have been a speeding ticket. "I wondered what I had done."

Jan and John Boyd are to receive the New Zealand Bravery Medal, and while the family still plan to go ahead with the investiture, the moment had "taken a back seat" for now, Jan said.

The family learned soon after the Nelson Mail visited their home on Friday that Michael had been killed that day.

The New Zealand Bravery Awards recognise the actions of people who risk their lives and safety while saving or attempting to save the life of another person.

The trio's actions after John Boyd's brother Ian Boyd forced his way into the house and shot his own son Brendon Boyd at near-point-blank range were described as "remarkable" and showing "extraordinary courage".

Brendon, who survived the shooting, is currently in Tadmor with the family. He said the awards had finally helped him find a way to thank them.

"These awards are so great, because it's been so hard to know how to say thanks properly.

"I'm so grateful and I'm so proud. I know any of the other siblings would have done the same thing. My children look up to them, and it's remarkable that I have such a fantastic life because of what they did."

Jan, a nurse, said that despite the moments of sheer terror and confusion in the immediate aftermath of the shooting in the dining area of their home, there was no doubt that Brendon was who she needed to tend to first.

"There were no two ways about it, otherwise he would have died."

A shotgun blast to the right side of his chest had almost killed him, but he crawled to the bathroom, where Jan immediately put compression on the wound.

She kept doing so until emergency services arrived almost an hour and a half later, not knowing if Ian was still in the house, and initially unaware of where Georgina was.

"As a nurse, I've never dealt with anything that serious. The sound of the shotgun just doesn't go away," Jan said.

John, who is bedridden with multiple sclerosis, heard the shot and knew it had connected with someone but did not know who.

"John had no idea where I was, Georgina had no idea where I was, and I had no idea where she was. None of us knew where Ian was," Jan said.

The events unfolded as John, Jan and Georgina were at home in Tui, near Tadmor, preparing for John's 60th birthday.

Brendon was due to arrive to spend the weekend celebrating with them, but instead turned up bleeding and shaken. He had been suddenly struck in the face by his father, who had suffered increasingly serious fits of paranoia over the years.

"He had gone to see his father but couldn't find him, so drove off. He noticed he was following him and then waved him down, so he stopped and opened his car window and his father hit him in the face," Jan said.

Ian arrived at the Boyds' door soon afterwards, brandishing a shotgun. Jan and Georgina struggled with him, trying to prevent him getting into the house, but he pushed past them and shot Brendon as he tried to calm his father.

Georgina continued grappling with Ian, trying to get the shotgun off him, but then heard her mother tell her to leave it.

"That hour and 20 minutes between the shooting and anyone getting here was never-ending. It was a time of absolute terror," Jan said.

Ian left the house, but returned, still carrying the gun, while Georgina and John were on the phone to emergency services.

Another altercation followed, and John told Georgina to run as he tried engaging with his brother, who had the gun pointed at his head as he lay immobilised in bed.

After more "ranting", Ian finally left. Some time during the next few hours, he took his own life in a van parked outside an old church on the Tadmor-Glenhope road.

At the inquest into Ian's death, Coroner Carla na Nagara commended the family for their bravery during a scene of "abject terror".

She acknowledged the "extraordinary courage and composure" of the three, whose "selfless disregard for their own safety" and remarkable courage "almost certainly saved Brendon's life".

Ms na Nagara said Ian was known to be "significantly paranoid", and had been for many years, but there was no evidence that what happened could have been predicted.

"Being kind to him wasn't a remedy," John strained to say of the brother, who had "some notoriety as a criminal".

Jan said it never crossed her mind that Ian was capable of doing what he did, but it had heightened the need to raise awareness of mental health issues in general.

"Families need to be aware and go their GPs and seek help," she said.

Jan, who works as a district nurse and also works shifts at Nelson Hospital as a paediatric nurse, while also helping to run the family farm and care for her husband, said they were honoured to be included in the awards.

"We have had a lot of support from the community, and that's helped enormously.

"We want to acknowledge the police, emergency services, AOS [armed offenders squad], Nelson [Hospital] emergency department and Wellington ICU, who all did an amazing job. That's what kept Brendon with us.

"For us, I'd say it's simply indescribable what it's like to have someone force their way into your house with a shotgun and do what he did.

"I feel terrible [that] my daughter endured this."