Southland men rescue elderly pair

Last updated 05:00 09/08/2014
Bewdley St fire heroes

RESCUERS: Builders Dylan Paterson, left, and Greg Maw say they are not heroes, despite rescuing an elderly couple from a burning house in Spreydon.

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Two southern men risked their lives, as windows shattered and a house filled with smoke, to rescue an elderly Christchurch couple from a fire.

The fire, about 3pm on July 31, destroyed the Bewdley St home in Christchurch that 90-year-old Victor Hewitt and his wife, Pearl, 85, had lived in for most of their lives.

Southlanders Greg Maw and Dylan Paterson were driving back to work after dropping off a rented DVD when they noticed smoke coming out of a roof.

Paterson, from Invercargill, shifted to Christchurch a couple of years ago to work as a builder for his cousin and boss Greg Maw, also from Southland.

By the time they "slammed on the anchors" and ran to the house, flames were already shooting at least two metres above the roof, Maw said.

"There was no thinking involved. We didn't have a chance to think," he said.

Paterson saw Pearl Hewitt on the other side of the front door and quickly pulled her to the porch.

He then rushed inside and found her husband frantically trying to call emergency services from the middle of the house.

"You could hear windows shattering; the smoke was in your face. It got pretty exciting there for a moment," he said.

He helped Victor Hewitt outside before he and Maw took the couple across the road to a neighbouring house, aided by another passerby.

"It took them a while to calm down. They were both in hysterics," Paterson said.

Maw said the elderly couple "would be toast" if he and Paterson had not stopped but claimed they were not heroes.

"The people who do this every day are the heroes," he said. "We're just a couple of lucky guys in the right place. We're just glad that we were here and we could help a very lovely old couple."

Paterson downplayed if the great southern spirit of lending a helping hand was behind his rescue efforts, only to say, "I didn't really think about it just went in and got on with it".

The fire, which was caused by unattended cooking, destroyed the couple's uninsured house and all of their possessions.

"We just hope, because they weren't insured, that they get the help they need. It's pretty gutting," Maw said.

Victor Hewitt said he suffered burns while trying to pour a bucket of water on the fire.

He believed he and his wife would not have escaped the fire if Maw and Paterson had not stopped. "They got us out. Without those two you'd be looking at two deaths."

The fire service planned to open the burnt-out home to the public later this month, to show people what could happen when they left cooking unattended. 

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- The Southland Times


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