The driver who blocked two lanes with his truck and scooped a toddler out of harm's way has been lauded for his heroic actions.
Dennis Roderick was reunited with the little blond boy for the first time yesterday when he received the supreme Beaurepaires Highways Hero award in Wellington.
"You're a little bit heavier now, mate," Roderick said while giving Liam Adamson, 2, a hug.
The Paraparaumu grandfather of seven was driving about 40kmh along Mana Esplanade, north of Porirua, last February when he saw Liam metres in front of him, trying to cross four lanes of traffic.
He braked and swung his 20-metre truck and trailer across both southbound lanes to prevent the toddler being run over, leapt from his cab and picked up the boy, then 16 months.
Roderick's heart continued to race as he cradled Liam while trying to figure out where he came from.
He spotted an open gate, then Liam's distraught mother, Michelle Barr.
He handed Liam over and drove away, not wanting to hold up traffic.
The family called Roderick, an owner-driver for Fastway Couriers, to thank him, but yesterday was the first time they had met in person. "We're just so grateful that our son is here today," Liam's dad, Jason Adamson, said.
"I applaud you for your heroic effort that you displayed, mate. It was outstanding." Adamson said the gate had been left open by someone delivering pamphlets.
While meeting Roderick had been emotional, it was nothing compared with the evening Liam escaped, Barr recalled. "He was fine, everyone else crumbled around him," she said.
A humble Roderick said: "It was just very fortunate that I was paying attention fully and able to stop."
The national manager for road policing, Superintendent Carey Griffiths, congratulated Roderick. "I know, Dennis, that being a hero was the last thing on your mind when you woke up that morning and went to work.
"You did the ultimate thing; you saved that little boy from a likely death."
The Highway Heroes award winner is chosen by police, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Beaurepaires and NZ Trucking magazine.
- © Fairfax NZ News