Hero police officer's determination saved woman

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 17:03 08/07/2014
Waikato Times

Saving an elderly woman from a burning building was all part of the job for Tauranga police officer Senior Constable Adrian Oldham.

Adrian Oldham
MIKE SCOTT/Fairfax NZ
SUPER COP: Senior Constable Adrian Oldham has been labelled a hero after he pulled an elderly woman from a blazing house in Tauranga.

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He's been shot at and kidnapped in the past, yet dragging an elderly woman out of a burning house will stick in Senior Constable Adrian Oldham's mind the most.

Over his 35-year career, including a stint in Hamilton, Oldham has seen a lot but even a heart-stopping encounter with gang members pales in comparison to Sunday night's spur-of-the-moment rescue.

"I saved a life. Yeah, that's probably pretty special."

The 53-year-old grandfather re-lived his brave deed during a press conference at Tauranga Police Station this afternoon.

He had been driving along Maranui St, on patrol, when he saw flames pouring out of a roadside home.

He thought it was an empty bach until he walked up to the ranch slider.

"This figure of an old lady came to the front door. She was dressed in a nightie and I was just gobsmacked - jeez, there's somebody in there.

"She was fumbling for the door handle and I was yelling to her pointing, open the door open the door. She obviously couldn't open it and then I saw her take a couple of steps back and she just disappeared."

Oldham was alone. He smashed through a side window and ventured in yet the black "acrid" smoke forced him out again.

"I was standing there thinking, I can't do it. I've never been In a situation like that. That acid smoke, I was coughing, thinking, how do these people do it because I just can't."

He thought: "That's somebody's grandma in there and I just knew it was up to me, Johnny on the spot. I had to. The adrenaline took over and you just go in."

Thoughts of putting his own life at risk didn't register.

He took his jacket off, inhaled deeply and went in on his hands and knees and started feeling around, blind.

He touched the woman's stomach, grabbed her heels and pulled her toward the window where

Oldham's colleague, Constable Shane McCarthy, helped get her out. Once the cold, fresh air hit the 77-year-old she opened her eyes and started talking.

The gravity of his actions didn't dawn on Oldham till a fire fighter said he certainly saved the woman's life.

"I sort of got a bit emotional then and thought, wow, I really have saved this woman's life."

Oldham said his wife and two children think he's a hero. The people of Papamoa and his colleagues are similarly proud.

Even people he once arrested said, "you're a hero, bro", at the supermarket.

"Maybe it wasn't too bad a thing I did, but I would do the same thing again in the drop of a hat. It doesn't matter if it's somebody's nanny or someone with a patch on their back, you do it. It's a human life."

Oldham admitted after the conference that he rings his mother every night and she always tells him "don't be a hero, son".

"I had to ring her back and say, I've been a hero tonight mum."

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