By Justin Flynn
Barwon Heads resident Todd Robertson will receive a bravery award for an act of courage in Queensland.
In October 2016, Mr Robertson was living in the Whitsundays and was travelling down Shute Harbour Road with a friend.
They noticed the traffic came to a standstill.
As they approached the scene they saw a utility had struck a power pole where they could see sparks and a large explosion, which ignited a jerry can of petrol in the back of the vehicle, causing a fire.
Mr Robertson stopped his car and both he and his friend ran towards the burning vehicle.
The driver’s door was ajar and the driver was still inside.
The dazed and injured driver attempted to exit the vehicle, however power lines lay on the ground nearby obstructing the man’s exit, with one of the lines also on top of his car.
Mr Robertson quickly approached the burning vehicle and made several attempts to assist the driver out, however the heat and power lines forced him back.
“The gentlemen was battling to get himself out of the car,” Mr Robertson said.
“The lines were active and we were speaking to him and encouraging him to move away from the flames.
“In the end I couldn’t stand back anymore and had to make an attempt to reach him.”
Without hesitation, and despite the intense heat and fallen powerlines, Mr Robertson removed his singlet and threw one end of it to the injured driver.
The man held onto the singlet and tried to walk forward but kept staggering backwards.
At this point, a bystander arrived with a fire extinguisher and Mr Robertson directed the nozzle towards the injured driver dousing the flames.
He then took the man by the hand and led him away from the burning car.
Mr Robertson’s friend instructed bystanders to gather wet towels which were placed on the injured man until emergency services arrived, but the man was badly burned and ultimately lost his life.
Mr Robertson said there was no thought of standing back when he realised the situation.
“Instinct took over quite a lot,” he said.
“When the situation was far too complicated and the heat too much, there’s a little bit of time for reflection and frustration and desperately trying to work out how to help him.
“And then of course instinct kicked in again. There was no thought, it was just go.”
Mr Robertson insisted he was not a hero and is still reluctant to speak about the events, but has done so in the hope that it can inspire others to be selfless.
“I was happy to have it been and gone but thought maybe a bravery award is not so much about me,” he said.
“Reaching out to other people and giving other people a bit of hope. We do come together in times of need.”
Ironically Mr Robertson now works with mains cables on electrical construction, but he has other goals.
“One day I’d like to work in mental health and fitness with different techniques to reach out to people and hopefully take a deep breath and go beyond their normal limits,” he said.