On October 20, 2015, Bringalbert South resident Natalie Dearden and Taylors Lake truck driver Tim Kelm were involved in the rescue of a woman and her daughter, after their car crashed on the Wimmera Highway west of Edenhope.
Thanks to their efforts and those of other motorists passing by, the mother and daughter escaped with minor injuries before their car burst into flames.
On Tuesday, Natalie and Tim will accept bravery medals as part of the latest round of the Australian Bravery Awards, along with 81 other people across the country.
In a statement, Australian Governor-General David Hurley said: "Australian Bravery Awards recognise courage and sacrifice. Perhaps most importantly, they recognise people who, in a moment of danger or threat, think of others ahead of their own safety.
"We celebrate their bravery and the example that they set: putting others before self and a willingness to help strangers, the vulnerable and those in danger in the most difficult of times."
Here, Natalie and Tim relive their experiences of that day in 2015 to the Mail-Times.
Natalie Dearden recalls:
I was driving to footy training and I pulled up on the scene first. Some people stand back and some people just happen to jump in. I'm one of those people who jumps in before they think sometimes.
There was a car on its side in front of me with smoke coming out.
A woman driving was semi-conscious and trapped. I looked into the back of the car and there was a child seat there, so I looked at her and the first thing I said was 'Is there anyone else in the car'?
Being a mother I suppose you kick into maternal gear.
Why wasn't I one of the ones standing back?Natalie Dearden
This little girl was very frightened and probably in shock, I got in through the canopy on the side of the SUV and got the little girl to come to me in the back of the car.
I passed her up through the window to another young man who lived close by and had come out to help.
Then I went back to try to free the mother. The problem was, with the car on its side, her foot was trapped in underneath the pedals, and I didn't really want to alarm her the car was on fire.
I ended up standing up on top of the car and I was frantic at that stage, because the smoke was getting thicker and her foot was getting hot. I screamed, "Has anyone got a fire extinguisher?!"
I looked around and I was disgusted to see people videoing it. Then Tim came up the road with a big piece of pipe. We smashed the sunroof out and with his strength we pulled her out of the car.
There were really four of us involved in the whole incident. There was another lady from Kingston in South Australia with two children going to visit her mother in Ballarat, and when she pulled up she rang triple zero.
We put the little girl in the front seat of her car to keep her safe. There were no emergency services at that point, it was just people on the road.
Then we went to put the woman in the car with her daughter and Tim went back to his truck. At that stage the car blew up. Time-wise I couldn't tell you how long all this took: the adrenaline was pumping that much.
Near the site of the incident
I'll remember that incident for the rest of my life, because I was going through a pretty torrid time then. My father Murray McKenzie was in an induced coma in The Alfred hospital in Melbourne after he had pneumonia and a heart operation, so I had been down there and missed a few things.
That day I said to my boys and husband, "I'm just going to go into footy training, have tea and talk to people".
In a small town when there's that much smoke you find out what's going on pretty quickly. I remember I walked into the footy club (after leaving the site) and everyone had heard what had happened down the road, and everyone cheered and said 'Oh, you're a hero!'. And I just burst into tears.
It was just the fact Dad was in ICU after a heart operation, after being flown down on the air ambulance, and I had a bit of emotional overload. I remember falling on my friend Jane Kelly, and just crying my eyes out.
She said 'what do you want?', and I said 'For God's sake, make me a coffee!'. After the adrenaline comes down, it all hits you.
I don't stay in touch with them... but every time that little girl achieves something I think 'that's good'.Natalie Deardon
After everything, when I got home, sat down and thought about (the incident), it was the fact that I never thought about anyone else except getting whoever was in that car out.
I put myself in a perilous predicament. Why wasn't I one of the ones standing back given I've got two young boys and a husband? And the only thing I can think of is that's what you do for someone in need.
The woman wrote me a letter afterwards - I didn't know them before that time - and I see her and her daughter every now and then in town.
I don't stay in touch with them, I don't want to bring up bad memories, but every time that little girl achieves something I think 'that's good'. Because she is in the same school as one of my sons I see through the newsletter what she is doing - coming first in races and other snippets. The little things in her life are brilliant. I would love to live long enough to hear of a big thing in her life - get married or having kids, that sort of thing.
Tim Kelm recalls:
I was coming out of Naracoorte with a load of stock on heading out to Swan Hill. I could see a bit of smoke and as I approached I could see there were two people who were frantically running around the car, so I could tell there was someone trapped inside.
I stopped about 150 metres back and I could see the flames coming out from under the bonnet, so I just grabbed my gloves. I had a piece of steel pipe and a big hammer in my tool box, I grabbed them and ran straight up to it.
When I got there the driver was still trapped, she couldn't get her leg out. I remember we smashed the sunroof with the piece of steel pipe but couldn't get her out, so we stuck the pipe under the roof lining and eventually dragged her out of the right-hand driver's window.
I'd say about a minute and a half after we did that the car was engulfed in flames. She seemed to be OK - she said she had a sore foot - and we helped her away as quickly as we could.
It's very humbling to win the award, and nice to be recognised, but it's not why you run up to a burning car: you run up because there is someone inside it. Some people might think you're crazy but if it was your own missus in that car you would want someone to try and help them get out, wouldn't you?
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