21 Apr 2010

Community thanked for helping save coolstore victims

9:59 pm on 21 April 2010

The community of Tamahere has been officially thanked for the help it gave firefighters on the night of an explosion at a coolstore.

Firefighter Derek Lovell died and seven of his colleagues were seriously injured when leaking gas ignited as they were entering the Icepack Coolstore near Hamilton on 4 May 2008.

Many in the community, including a number of medical personnel, rushed to the scene from a nearby school gala.

One of the injured firemen, Dennis Wells, says that if it wasn't for the community's help, at least four other firefighters would have died that night.

"To run towards it (the explosion) and stay there when they saw what was happening and then aid and assist us - unbelievable.

"I don't believe people in other countries would've done that - especially countries where they have bombs or explosions all the time - I think they would've taken off. We were just so lucky."

Mr Wells says there will always be a strong bond between the Tamahere community and the Fire Service.

Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand on Wednesday unveiled a plaque recognising the bravery of the community. Sir Anand says because people are reluctant to take any personal credit, the ceremony was a way of thanking them all.

Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy told those gathered that locals showed incredible courage.

The firemen have returned to work, although two remain on light duties.