Tamati James Rae and his three children were on their way back from a family visit in Hokitika, New Zealand, to their home in Kaikoura when the unimaginable occurred. For reasons police are still trying to determine, his truck drove off the Rough Bridge, which spans the Otututu River in Greymouth, and crashed into the banks of the river below.
Incredibly, the children, ages 6, 9, and 11 years old, survived the crash and began to scream for help. At that moment, a 17-year-old local happened to be passing by. Ignoring the danger, he ran down to the wreckage and pulled the children to safety. He then took them to a nearby farmhouse where they waited for police to arrive. The children were taken to Grey Base Hospital for observation and were later released to family members.
Sadly, Tamati did not survive the crash. Police later recovered his body from the wreckage.
His passing has hit the community hard. Friends and family members describe Tamati, who specialized in repairing and beautifying the country after its frequent earthquakes, as a selfless person who loved his family.
“[He was a] good guy, there for his mates, family. Just was an outgoing guy who would do anything for anyone,” said friend Dythaniel Hart. “[I’m] sad, but glad [the] kids [are] ok.”
While police are still working to determine the cause of the crash, Atarau farmer and former Grey District Councillor Paul Berry says the bridge has needed repairing for years and authorities have “unfortunately been dilly dallying around.”
“The bridge is no longer fit for purpose and it is essential for the district as the only route for overweight and over-dimension vehicles,” he said. “It has been a big problem for a number of years now.”
Tamati’s passing is tragic and heartbreaking and his loss is one his loved ones will never fully get over, but we are thankful for the anonymous young hero who put his own life at risk to save Tamati’s children. Though Tamati is gone, his spirit and his legacy will live on in his kids.
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