The Police Association has presented its first-ever bravery award to an officer who pulled two boys from a burning van.
Inspector Mike O'Leary was off-duty when he saw a vehicle fly 4.5 metres into the air, roll six times before bursting into flames near Taupo last year.
Mr O'Leary burnt his hands rescuing the boys, aged nine and two. He says witnessing the crash was a shock but his training and insticts kicked in.
In his 28 years with the police, he says, he has never seen anything as horrific.
Prime Minister John Key presented the award on Thursday, saying it was an opportunity to pay tribute to a remarkable New Zealander who showed quick thinking and put his life on the line to save others.