Rob Appleton at the Scene of a high-speed crash which resulted in the car catching fire. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Waimea Rd crash brings heroes together


An unlikely trio of heroes helped save a man’s life following a high-speed crash on Waimea Rd.

With little regard for their own safety, the three Nelsonians joined forces to help extinguish the car after it ignited and then free the trapped driver on Sunday night.

It was a narrow escape for both the driver and occupants of the house, which he missed by mere metres.

Veteran firefighter Rob Appleton was getting ready for bed when he heard what he knew was a bad crash.

Running to the scene, Rob’s brain went into work mode and he started to assess the situation.

“I was expecting there to be deaths.”

Rob says it was a miracle the driver was able to ‘thread the needle’ between the two houses.

One of those houses was Nelson MP Nick Smith who said that his daughter was home and got “an awful fright” but thankfully no one was hurt.

After Rob tumbled down the roadside, cutting his hand and getting stabbed in the hip by debris on the way down, he went about rescuing the trapped driver.

Rob says his FENZ training helped him bring order to the chaos.

“I felt pretty naked initially because I’m used to having a truck with equipment and a team of firefighters but, in this case, I just mobilised the citizens. A lot of the neighbours were down trying to help.”

A neighbour handed Rob a knife as he proceeded to cut the driver free.

The man walked from the wreckage with little more than a few cuts and bruises and police say they are continuing their enquiries.

Chanelle Tahu witnessed the crash as she was driving her friend home and was first on the scene.

She says the car flipped through the air and landed upside down on the bank, taking out everything in its path.

Chanelle pulled over and rushed to help the driver while her friend called the emergency services.

“I thought he was dead, but then I saw the fire and heard someone screaming.”

After getting the children clear of the wreckage, Chanelle started to panic. Thankfully, she was joined by ‘the most legend of legends’ in the form of Kirk Waho.

Kirk thought his house was being burgled when he heard the thunderous bang. Once he realised a car had landed in his backyard, he sprang into action.

“I just jumped in there and just done what I could do.”

Kirk controlled the fire as Rob proceeded to cut the driver free, burning his hand on the exhaust in the process.

“I was on the car, and I’m just thinking ‘it’s going to blow’. I was worried, but we couldn’t just let him die so did what we had to do.”

He says the incident could have been a lot worse for him and his family.

Rob says he is a bit sore in the aftermath of the accident but was back at work on Tuesday.