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How four strangers saved the life of a man who had a cardiac arrest while driving in New Zealand

A man whose car spun out of control when he suffered a cardiac arrest at the wheel has met the brave strangers who saved his life.

Dave Barker, who works as a dispatcher for Wellington Fire Service, blacked out and veered into the centre barrier of State Highway 1 at Ngauranga Gorge, Wellington, on May 28.

Mr Barker, who is aged in his 50s, hit the barrier nine times before his car came to a complete stop.

In the two minutes following the accident, 55 vehicles passed his car without stopping, Ten One Magazine reported.

It was sheer luck that dog handler Constable Regan Woodmass managed to arrive on scene in bumper-to-bumper traffic. 

Mr Barker (pictured, centre) has since met the strangers who stopped in bumper-to-bumper traffic to help save his life when he crashed on May 28

Constable Woodmass was travelling southbound on State Highway 1 when he saw the accident unfold near Johnsonville before turning around to help Mr Barker. 

‘Thinking back to that night, it was a lot of good fortune and luck that the right people with the right skills were close by to help,’ Constable Woodmass said.

‘Otherwise, this would not have ended the way that it did.’ 

Constable Woodmass was soon joined by Irene Campbell, who leaped into action when she approached Mr Barker’s car and realised he ‘was unconscious but looked okay to move’.

‘So I dragged him out of the passenger door to start CPR,’ she said.

‘Before he had hit the ground, Lizette Standish, a mechanic who had completed first aid training, jumped into action assisting with compressions.’

Christopher Hoffman, an orthopaedic surgeon, was the fourth on the scene taking over CPR.

‘In just over a minute of CPR, Dave breathed on his own for a bit and then went unresponsive again,’ Constable Woodmass said.

Once paramedics were on the scene, Mr Barker was moved into the ambulance, where CPR continued.

He was shocked a number of times before being stable enough to move to hospital, where he was then placed on life support in a critical condition. 

Mr Barker knew he was at risk of heart issues and had undergone a cardio treadmill test due to his family’s history with cardiac problems just days before.

There was no sign of any problem at the time of this test, however.  

In a fateful twist Mr Barker’s colleagues at the Fire Service watched the event unfold from the command centre.

They recognised Mr Barker’s car and saw him in distress in the moments prior to help arriving. 

Authorised Officer Jo Barry – Mr Baker’s sister – has since reached out to all those involved on the night, thanking them for their heroic efforts.

‘I’m so thankful for everyone who helped Dave that night,’ she said.

In the two minutes following Mr Barker's accident on May 28, 55 vehicles passed without stopping before the first of four strangers arrived to help

In the two minutes following Mr Barker’s accident on May 28, 55 vehicles passed without stopping before the first of four strangers arrived to help

‘Though Regan is incredibly humble, Dave wouldn’t be with us now if it wasn’t for Regan’s actions and quick thinking and his strength to drag Dave out of the car. ‘

‘As a family, we are hugely grateful for Regan’s response to what could have been a terrible outcome.’ 

Mr Baker has since met the four strangers who stopped to save his life at a party arranged by Mr Barker’s family.

Constable Woodmass told Ten One Magazine it was not often those working in emergency services could see what happened after an accident, and how the family was affected. 

‘It’s been great to hear updates about Dave’s recovery. It was a privilege to meet him and his family under much happier circumstances,’ he said.

‘Dave is a really awesome guy with an amazing family and we had a great conversation at the reunion party. 

‘There were so many good people who helped that night and I’m just thankful that this story has a happy ending.’  


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