Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand and Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy today thanked members of the Tamahere community who two years ago this month came to the aid of firefighters caught in the fatal Icepak explosion and fire.
Senior firefighter Derek Lovell died in the April 5, 2008 disaster, which also seriously injured seven of his colleagues.
The Governor General unveiled a plaque (pictured below) in today’s ceremony at Tamahere, which recognized “the bravery of the Tamahere community, who with disregard to their own safety, rescued and provided care to the members of the New Zealand Fire Service injured in the explosion at Tamahere on 5th April 2008.”
Given the scale of the explosion it could have been expected that Tamahere people, gathered at the nearby annual community Pumpkin Night festival, would have run away from the disaster, the Governor General said.
“Many people at the event ran towards the coolstores. Despite the danger they pulled out trapped people,” he said.
It if hadn’t been for the response the human toll of the blast would have been much higher.
Medical intensivist Dr Rob Frengel, a Tamahere resident who was one who came to the firefighters’ aid, listed the many acts done by Tamahere people from attending to badly injured firemen to directing traffic and keeping young children safe while their parents were in the thick of the rescue.
It made him proud to be a Tamahere resident, he said.
Fire Service Commission chairperson Dame Margaret Bazley said the Fire Service had not been able to identify everyone who assisted with the rescue nor was there anything in the NZ Honours or Bravery awards system that provided for recognition of groups.
Today’s ceremony was a way to recognize as many people as possible, she said.
“I trust you will conclude, as I do,” she told around 150 people at the ceremony, “that we are privileged indeed to live in a society populated with decent, compassionate and brave citizens.”
Coolstore blast survivors say thanks – NZ Herald report