Off-duty cop saves woman

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Charred: the aftermath of the nasty crash

Rescuing people from burning cars is all in the line of work for Aussie copper Bill Fettes – even when he’s on his hols.

The Adelaide ‘Brevet Sergeant’, 66, rushed into action in Queenstown two Sundays ago at the scene of a nasty smash at Lake Hayes turnoff.

Lucky escape: The burning car PICTURE: JOSHUA TODD
Lucky escape: The burning car PICTURE: JOSHUA TODD

He dragged one injured woman, an Irishwoman, from the wreck of her burning white car before it was engulfed in flames.

“I could see the fire licking under the engine bay,” he says.

“It looked like a fuel spillage. The road was basically on fire – I thought that’s not looking too good.”

The woman was jammed between the airbag and driver’s seat.

“Obviously her arm was badly damaged and she couldn’t move it.

“She was conscious but definitely in shock, her eyes were wide and she was shaking.”

Fettes asked about her injured arm and said he’d grab her other arm to pull her out.

“I had to drag her out. I got her away and someone put out the fire on the road with an extinguisher.”

She wanted to return to the car to grab her bag but he stopped her.

“Then the front of the car went up.”

The fire was so intense it melted the road’s seal.

One of the next members of the public on the scene was a nurse, who took over care of the injured woman.

Her upper arm was broken in the crash, shortly before 4pm on Sunday, December 11, on State Highway 6 outside Amisfield winery. She’s passed her thanks to Fettes through the police.

Three other people were taken to hospital with moderate injuries.

A local woman has been charged with careless driving causing injury.

Fettes, a sixth Dan Sotokushin Aikido black belt, was driving towards Queens-town with his wife and two teenage children, immediately behind one of the three cars involved in the head-on smash: a Mercedes SUV and two Audis.

“It was like a pinball, there were cars going everywhere. I don’t know where the white car came from.”

He’s been a police officer for 20 years and attended “more than enough” accidents.

It’s not the first time he’s had some drama while overseas.

Fettes was in Iran for the 1979 revolution, then travelled to Afghanistan, and was there when Soviet tanks rolled in on Christmas Eve of the same year.

paul.taylor@scene.co.nz