Wedding party springs to the rescue

Newlyweds Leanne and Grant Bradley were more concerned for those affected by the tragedy that cut their special day short than the disruption to their wedding reception on Saturday.

The pair were sitting in their Ford Mustang wedding car awaiting a photo outside a church while their 76 guests mingled when an explosion occurred which killed Hamilton firefighter Derek Lovell and injured seven of his colleagues.

‘‘It was a huge bang - I can't explain it,'' Mrs Bradley said. ‘‘It was like a bomb, a big bomb.''

Guests ran about 200m from the reception at Gails of Tamahere towards the scene at Icepak Coolstores, southeast of Hamilton, to help drag the injured firefighters from the building, as explosions continued.

Dinner was about to be served when guests were given five minutes to evacuate the building, with no time to take personal items,including cameras with precious photos, bags and wedding presents.

Mrs Bradley said her brother, Matt Reynolds, and his father-inlaw, Neil Quinlan, sprinted towards the burning building.

They were followed closely by her sister, Melissa Tucker, who - holding her high heels and bouquet and with her bridesmaid's dress hitched up - ran to the scene with her sons, Jacob (14), and Michael (12).

Still stunned by the experience, Mrs Bradley said she was proud of the group.

She was more concerned about the wellbeing of firefighters and their families than the wedding disturbance.

‘‘My wedding's the last of my worries at the moment. I haven't seen what my brother's seen. He's seen some pretty horrible stuff. They saved lives on my wedding day. It's amazing, but it's a tragedy.''

Mr Reynolds, who entered the burning building to help remove one of the critically ill firemen said last night many bystanders risked their lives to help.

He was coping with the hor rific experience by ‘‘keeping myself busy''. Mr Reynolds is also planning to visit the fire fighters in hospital.

Ms Tucker and her sons were still shaking graphic images of the injured firefighters from their minds yesterday.

When they arrived, the build ing had buckled and firefighters were stumbling about with seri ous burns. Jacob and Michae then ran to alert those at the Tamahere Model Country Schoo fair to the dangers.


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