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Today, 27 people will be honoured with New Zealand Bravery Awards for their role in the rescue efforts, carried out amid the shock and confusion of the first 24 hours after the magnitude 6.3 earthquake.
Five police officers, 18 firefighters, two doctors, a Navy Lieutenant Commander, and a local businessman have all been recognised for their extraordinary feats of bravery.
Christchurch anaesthetist Dr Bryce Curran and Australian urologist Dr Lydia Johns-Putra have been awarded New Zealand Bravery Decorations for an act of exceptional bravery in a situation of danger for their part in the rescue of Brian Coker.
When they discovered Mr Coker, he was in danger of bleeding to death with his legs pinned between a concrete pillar and a collapsed floor section of the Pyne Gould Corporation building, in which 18 people died. In a cramped and unsteady space, the doctors and emergency services personnel carried out a double amputation and saved Mr Coker's life.
Dr Curran described the ordeal as an "intense experience".
"There isn't really a rulebook for what to do in that situation. It's really just a matter of coming up with a plan, sticking to it and making use of what's available.
"It wasn't a nice place to be. The most threatening bit was to do the surgery. Lydia and myself had to crawl basically beneath a collapsed beam, which was quite a tight squeeze," Dr Curran said.
Firefighter Scott Shadbolt and then-Senior Constable Danny Johanson supported the doctors, helping with the hacksaw to complete the operation. Both received bravery medals.
"Brian is very lucky that there were four people with individual separate skills who were willing to say 'yes' ... rather than just leaving him to die," said Dr Curran.
A posthumous medal was awarded to station officer Alan Butcher for his work in charge of the first firefighters to arrive at the Canterbury Television building, where 115 people died.
The other 22 people to receive a medal were Stephen Acton, Michael Brooklands, Luke Burgess, Kevin Carr, Shane Cole, Shane Cowles, Kevin Crozier, Richard Green, Terrence Gyde, Craig Jackson, Michael Kneebone, Joshua Kumbaroff, Daniel Lee, Michael Lennard, Simon Payton, Richard Platt, Paul Rodwell, Steven Smylie, Cory Stewart, Anthony Tamakehu, Mark Whittaker and Michael Yeates.
• To nominate someone for a New Zealand Bravery Award, visit honours.govt.nz.
New Zealand Bravery Awards
• Recognise the rescue efforts following the deadly Christchurch earthquake in 2011.
• Two people are receiving the New Zealand Bravery Decoration for acts of exceptional bravery.
• 25 people are receiving a New Zealand Bravery Medal for bravery.
• Recipients were selected from nominations received by the honours unit after the Christchurch quakes.
• Today's awards were able to be issued because the relevant court proceedings coroners' inquests and other related inquiries have been completed.