Girls to rescue in river drama

'Anyone would have done the same thing'

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 05:00 31/10/2012
Sacred Heart Girls’ College
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

RESCUE STUDIES: Sacred Heart Girls’ College students Anna Baik, left, and Waiaria Henderson helped save a woman who plunged down this sheer river bank on her mobility scooter yesterday.

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Rushing to the aid of a 58-year-old woman who plunged 20 metres down a sheer Waikato River bank on her mobility scooter was all in a day's school work for five Hamilton teenagers.

The Sacred Heart Girls' College students were lagging behind their year 11 classmates after a physical education lesson at Memorial Park yesterday afternoon when they noticed the strange behaviour of a woman on a red scooter.

Anna Baik, 16, watched in disbelief as the Hamilton woman careered down the steep tarseal walkway running from River Rd toward a T-intersection and the river, just north of Victoria Bridge.

The woman appeared to be wrestling with the handlebars, trying to regain control as the scooter picked up pace. But Anna said the brakes must have failed.

The woman missed the turn and plunged through a row of agapanthus and out of sight.

Jessica Peden, Alisha Heta, Kya Watene, Waiaria Henderson and Anna ran to help.

They couldn't see her through the tree trunks, undergrowth and broken branches. And the bank was so steep they ran north to the easily accessed river edge and pushed back through the bush, following the cries for help.

Anna said the woman landed half in the water, half out, on a flat section of bank beneath a two-metre-high lip. Her smashed up scooter was lodged in a tree nearby.

She was in a bad way, Anna said, pale, bleeding, and soon struggling for breath. The girls said the situation was scary and seemed unreal.

They put the woman in the recovery position, called emergency services and told her not to panic, that help was on the way.

Other passers-by arrived, followed closely by St John Ambulance staff, police and the Fire Service.

The woman was taken to Waikato Hospital and was stable last night.

Police will examine her mobility scooter today for defects.

City area commander Inspector Greg Nicholls said there are various ways to recognise the rescuers for their actions.

"I would like to formally acknowledge the efforts of all those involved," he said.

"It is reassuring that people still have a strong sense of community and when they see someone in trouble they step up to the mark an,d in this case, prevented a tragedy from occurring."

Anna was proud of the group's actions: "We're heroes!" Waiaria was more modest: "Anyone would have done the same thing if they were in the same situation."

Sacred Heart Girls' College principal Chris Allen said the girls' teacher was very impressed with them.

"They kept calm and did all the things they needed to do without being asked or told. They didn't panic and just got on with things," she said.

"I am the proudest principal in the Waikato today.

"I am just so impressed with what they did. I am so, so proud."

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- Waikato Times

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