December 25, 2019
Gary Steele counts himself lucky to be alive.
The Wellsford man was run over by his nine tonne tow truck and dragged about 10m over gravel on February 17.
He was unloading a van he had towed for a mate, when one of the tow truck's wheels must have lifted off the ground, causing it to move.
"We don't know for sure, all we know is that it ran away."
Steele darted towards the front of the truck to jump in and stop it but slipped on the driveway's loose gravel.
"All I could see was this wheel coming towards me and I thought this is going to hurt," Steele said. "I must have blacked out."
The wheel rolled over his upper body, breaking ribs and collapsing his lungs and degloving the skin from his left arm.
His daughter Jacinda Henare heard the "loud bang" and rushed to help.
She was the first person on the scene and when she saw her dad under the truck, had to carefully reverse it off him.
When emergency services arrived, many of them were Steele's good mates who he had previously worked with in the local fire brigade.
He had regained consciousness and couldn't resist telling them they were cutting away his best shirt, before he was airlifted to Auckland City Hospital in a critical condition.
His wife Jackie and the family were told it could be months before he left hospital. However once he had a titanium chest plate put in, he was, incredibly, well enough to leave in a matter of weeks.
Steele met his rescuer, Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter flight intensive care paramedic Casey Drum, properly for the first time in November.
Drum said it was great to see Steele back on his feet again after such serious injuries.
Steele was incredibly grateful for all the help he had received since the accident. In particular he wanted to thank the paramedics, doctors and helicopter team who helped him.
"I spent a lot of time in hospital and all those nurses had to put up with me as well."
He maintains a positive outlook, even insisting the ordeal has been a surprisingly pain-free experience and that he had blacked out for the worst of it.
And his sense of humour is completely intact.
"I'm glad it's not my right arm, so I can still play my [lawn] bowls."