Manurewa dad meets man who saved child with CPR after driveway accident

7:01 am on 2 January 2023

By Lincoln Tan of NZ Herald

Charlie Toetoe hails Matthew Denton (right) as a superhero for saving his son Kharlo-Rae Pirini-Kiel's life.

Charlie Toetoe hails Matthew Denton (right) as a superhero for saving his son Kharlo-Rae Pirini-Kiel's life. Photo: Brett Phibbs / NZME

Charlie Toetoe says his 6-year-old son Kharlo-Rae Pirini-Kiel wouldn't be alive to see the new year had it not been for a stranger who jumped out of his car to revive his badly injured child.

After nearly a week of trying to track down the mystery man, Toetoe finally got to meet and thank army enlistee Matthew Denton, 21, after the New Zealand Herald facilitated a reunion at his home on Sunday afternoon.

Kharlo-Rae was playing with his cousins by a pool in front of the house when a car backed out of the driveway and hit him on 27 December.

The Manurewa schoolboy was pinned under the car and neighbours rushed to help him.

It took 12 people to lift the car and pull Kharlo-Rae out, Toetoe said.

Denton, who was driving by at the time, saw the commotion and stopped his car.

"There was this crowd, I initially thought they were playing tag or something, then I saw this boy lying lifeless there," he said.

Denton said he tried to feel for a pulse and there was none.

"That's when I start doing compressions, then started performing CPR. When he started talking we knew he's out of it, but the whole thing was definitely terrifying," Denton said.

"I never ever drive through this street but did so that day only because the motorway traffic was bad and I did a detour, it's definitely a blessing that I did."

Denton, who has enlisted to join the New Zealand Army next month, said it was also fortunate that he had just graduated from a Limited Service Volunteer course run by the New Zealand Defence Force, where he learned first aid.

"So how to perform CPR was still fresh on my mind," he said.

Matthew Denton brings gifts for Kharlo-Rae Pirini-Kiel on New Year's Day.

Matthew Denton brings gifts for Kharlo-Rae Pirini-Kiel on New Year's Day. Photo: Brett Phibbs / NZME

Toetoe said his son was not breathing at the time when Denton arrived, and people were standing around because no one there knew CPR.

Kharlo-Rae's extensive injuries included a broken collarbone and five broken ribs. He was discharged from Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital on 31 December.

"Matthew, he gave my son the gift of life. I don't think Kharlo would have been around to see the new year if not for Matthew," Toetoe said.

"What he did after coming from nowhere, it's more than heroics... mate, Matthew's a superhero."

However, Denton brushed off the praise and compliments, saying he was no hero.

"As weird as it is to say, I don't think I'm a hero. It's something that anyone would have done and I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had to," Denton said.

Kharlo's mother Katarina Pirini-Kiel, 26, said she should have thanked Matthew on the day of the accident but didn't do so because her mind "went blank" that day.

"It's just so great to finally meet Matthew, he saved my son's life. That day my mind went blank, it was really traumatic for me as Kharlo's mum to see that," she said.

"We're just so lucky that Matthew was driving past at the time because he was able to do what he did. He's such a hero."

Denton is South African-born and moved to New Zealand with his family 15 years ago.

His mother Claire Denton believed it was "guardian angels" who led him down the Manurewa Road that day.

Denton and his parents brought a gift bag that included books, a teddy bear, and chocolates for Kharlo-Rae.

Kharlo-Rae said his wish for the new year was to be able to go to school and play games with his friends again.

A neighbour told the Herald at the time they heard screaming and yelling, and rushed out to see what happened.

"Everyone was saying 'he's under the car, under the car'," he said.

The resident said the driver had backed out of the driveway near trees where the boy was understood to have hidden while playing.

"The driver must not have seen him," he said.

Following the incident, Kharlo-Rae was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

A police spokesperson said they were alerted to a report of a vehicle collision involving a child about noon on 27 December.

The incident happened at a residential address on Coxhead Rd in Manurewa, police said.

The Serious Crash Unit attended the scene.

An Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter spokesperson said the child was struck by a moving vehicle in a driveway.

"He was trapped and the vehicle was lifted off by bystanders."

St John sent two ambulances to the scene and a rapid response vehicle.

An Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter paramedic and doctor accompanied the boy in an ambulance to Starship at the time.

* This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.

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