Kiwi shot during PNG gun battle

A New Zealand woman is recovering in an Australian hospital after being shot by a stray bullet during a gun battle in Papua New Guinea.

Cathy Franzoi, a volunteer ambulance officer, was hit in the leg, just above her right kneecap, while sleeping at a mission house in Port Moresby on Sunday.

Mrs Franzoi and her 15-year-old son Luke had been in PNG for three weeks with Christian volunteer organisation Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Medical Ships, helping local people with health care, when the gun battle broke out on their last night in the country.

"She was sleeping on her side and heard 'get on the floor', when she said it was like someone put a red hot point of metal and put it right into her leg," her husband Rodney said.

"She realised she was shot and rolled on to the floor."

Mrs Franzoi was flown to a hospital in Cairns, Australia, on Monday for treatment. She was in a stable condition, and preparing for surgery today.

Speaking from his home in Waihi, Mr Franzoi said he initially thought his wife was joking when she contacted him to break the news.

Their son Luke arrived home yesterday. He had slept through the shooting.

"Someone woke him up saying 'your mum needs to talk to you'. So he went into her room and there she was with a bullet in her leg," Mr Franzoi said.

The couple have lived at Waihi Beach for three years after emigrating from South Africa, where they worked as paramedics.

"There are so many times that I could have been shot over there and I wasn't -- and then this happens to her."

YWAM said it was "very sad" to confirm one of its volunteers had been injured.

"The incident occurred after she had completed a project serving on our medical ship helping local people in Papua New Guinea's Gulf Province with medical training and community development needs, while awaiting her return flight to New Zealand.

"Our thoughts are very much with Cathy and her family, and our priority remains to do whatever we are able to speed her recovery."

It was the first incident of its kind in more than 22 years, the non-profit organisation said. A thorough investigation would be conducted to see if there was anything it could do to improve safety for its volunteers.

Mrs Franzoi had been travelling with members of her church, Waihi Baptist Church, said community pastor Alan Scott, who was also on the trip.

"Each member of the team has had a memorable time in PNG and is determined that a single event will not overshadow the amazing experience and all are keen to return on another occasion."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said it was aware of Mrs Franzoi's situation and had offered consular support.

- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ and the Bay of Plenty Times

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