FOR Lauren Gilbride, Friday was a chance to say thank you to the man who saved her life.
That man, Craig Lawrence, had often wondered the fate of the young woman that he heroically and single-handedly pulled from the wreck of her burning car.
Eight months on from Ms Gilbride’s horrific accident, which happened when the young woman from Dalkeith swerved to miss a kangaroo and hit a tree while driving along the Forrest Highway, the unlikely pair met again in the far more auspicious surrounds of Government House.
The special occasion was to honour Dr Lawrence with a St John Ambulance Community Hero award but it served as much as a means for the unlikely couple to share a heartwarming reunion and two very different recollections of the night of June 14.
LISTEN: The triple zero call made from the scene.
Dr Lawrence – a Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development scientist – was on his way back from visiting the department’s fish hatchery in Pemberton when he saw a car had hit a tree so pulled over.
“I shone my headlamp through the driver’s window and through the smoke I could see a young woman in the driver’s seat, slumped over the airbag,” he said.
“At that moment she moved and I realised she was alive but couldn’t get out of the car.”
The Churchlands resident says he did not think twice about helping her and believes he just did what anyone would do in the situation.
“She was trapped in there and by that stage there was flames coming over the bonnet,” he said.
“When I looked at her she wasn’t much older than my daughter.”
He pulled the then 26-year-old from the car and moved her about five metres away.
“I ran back to my car to get my first aid kit, then I returned to her and had a look at her injuries,” he said.
“She had cuts to her face and hands, a bone protruding from one ankle and cuts on the other ankle and leg.
“I folded my triangular bandages into pads and bandaged them onto her injuries to control the bleeding.”
Incredibly, the rescue was not the first time the humble hero has been first on the scene at a car crash, having twice previously pulled people from a wreck.
He praised the emergency services personnel who quickly arrived on scene, as well as Ms Gilbride, who he described as “so tough” and “very courageous”.
The last time he had seen her she was being placed on a gurney and he never knew if she survived until he was told of the Community Hero Award he would receive for the act that ultimately saved Ms Gilbride’s life.
She still has physical scars and walks with a slight limp, and there’s more surgery required on her troublesome ankle, but the chance to meet Dr Lawrence was an important milestone in her recovery.
Dr Lawrence described receiving the award as “terribly embarrassing” but was appreciative.
“It’s really nice, I feel humbled and honoured,” he said.
“I’m just glad I could help.
“I think sometimes we have to put fear aside and help people.”