5 Apr 2013

Children critical after car fire in Gisborne

10:04 pm on 5 April 2013

Police investigating a car fire in which two young children were critically injured say it is too early to say whether charges will be laid.

A three-year-old girl and her brother, aged 22 months, were left alone in the vehicle outside shops in Gisborne on Thursday afternoon.

Investigations are being carried out by police, the Fire Service and Child, Youth and Family.

Emergency services were called to a carpark outside the Supercheap Auto branch in Gladstone Road about 4.30pm. The children were pulled from the car unconscious by people in nearby businesses who saw the smoke.

Police say a barbecue lighter was found on the back seat of the car, but the cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed.

They have not yet formally interviewed the children's mother, who was in the auto shop at the time.

The boy is being treated at Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit, but his sister was transferred to Middlemore Hospital in Auckland on Friday. Both remain in a critical condition.

Child, Youth and Family says it was involved with the family for a brief period in January 2012.

Central regional director John Langley says anyone who comes across children left without adequate supervision should call police.

Rescuers praised

People who rushed to the aid of the children are being praised by the Fire Service for saving them.

Mutu Ngarimu, whose office was only a few metres away from the car, grabbed a fire extinguisher and rushed to the vehicle.

"I knocked on the door to see if anyone was in there, opened it and then saw some flames," he told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Friday. "We used the fire extinguisher to put it out and then noticed the young children in the car."

Mr Ngarimu said he pulled the unconscious children from the back seat and along with another rescuer performed CPR on them, then and bathed them with water.

"They were crying, they were pretty much in shock as you can image - a tough old ordeal for them."

He said everyone worked together to try to keep the children calm until emergency services arrived.

In all, about a dozen people helped in the rescue and in giving medical assistance.

Fire Station officer Ed Hindmarsh told Morning Report that by extinguishing the blaze and administering CPR members of the public were able to save the children before emergency services got to the scene.

Mr Hindmarsh said the fire is a timely reminder for parents not to leave their children alone with matches and lighters.