NZer wins rare bravery award for burning car rescue

7:47 am on 20 January 2017

Pulling a mother and her three daughters from a burning car has led to a prestigious international award for Bulls man Murray Michie.

His selfless act has seen him become the first New Zealander in almost 50 years to receive the UK's Royal Humane Society's top bravery award.

Each year the Society in London selects one act of bravery from nominations from throughout the commonwealth for its Stanhope Gold medal.

Murray Michie

Murray Michie Photo: Supplied / Royal Humane Society of New Zealand

On 11 July 2015, a man was overtaking traffic near Bulls at more than 150 km/h when he lost control, hit a traffic island crashed head-on into Susan Evans' Toyota Landcruiser towing a large horse float.

The landcruiser and float jack-knifed, leaving Mrs Evans and her three daughters, aged 15, 14 and 11 trapped upside down in the mangled, burning wreck. The driver of the other vehicle was killed.

Murray Michie and his wife were among the first on the scene.

"I just happened to wander over to see what was going on like everybody else and when I was told there were people in the car," said Mr Michie.

"I just didn't think twice, I just jumped in [and] wanted to get them out of there," Mr Michie said.

He wrenched open the rear hatch, allowing the eldest daughter to escape.

The two other girls remained trapped, upside down, after their seatbelts tightened and jammed on impact.

Another helper gave Mr Michie a pocket knife which he used to cut them free.

"The oldest girl had said to me that [her] mum was still in there and it was pretty fairly well alight by then, so I just went straight back into the car and found Susan and untangled her from the metal and cut her loose.

"It was only a matter of a few seconds that I got from the car that it burst into flames."

The members of the family were left with serious injuries but they all survived.

Mrs Evans said without Mr Michie's actions and those of others who helped out things would have been much different.

"We're extremely grateful that our whole family is still here today even though there are some long term effects from some of my injuries.

"It's fantastic Murray is receiving such high recognition for his brave actions. He is a true hero to our family"

Murray Michie receiving his bravery medal from the new Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy.

Murray Michie receiving his New Zealand bravery medal from Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy in September, 2016. Photo: RNZ / Adriana Weber

Award rare for New Zealanders

For his actions Mr Michie, from Bulls, was awarded a Silver medal by the Humane Society of New Zealand in September last year. Four others who helped also received Bronze medals and Certificates of Merit.

He was then nominated by the Society for the Stanhope Gold Medal.

"[I'm] really shocked, but yeah, what a great honour to be a recipient of this award," Mr Michie said.

President of the Humane Society of New Zealand, Austin Forbes, said the act was selfless and could have ended far worse.

"He'd no sooner got the mother out ... and the vehicle exploded. To highlight the danger I mean that could have happened two minutes earlier."

He said the medal was not always given out each year and was a rare thing for a New Zealander.

"It's a very special. We haven't had it here in New Zealand since 1968 and that was an astonishing brave rescue too," Mr Forbes said.

The Royal Humane Society of New Zealand has requested the Governor General present the medal in the next month or so.

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