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Irish rugby fan gives CPR to New Zealand rugby officer after his heart stopped

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Sara Hartigan

Sara Hartigan

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony is tackled by New Zealand's Sevu Reece at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony is tackled by New Zealand's Sevu Reece at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport via AP

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Sara Hartigan

AN IRISH rugby fan gave CPR to a man in New Zealand after his heart stopped beating and his vehicle collided with several parked cars.

Sara Hartigan (42), from Limerick, gave CPR to Dean Herewini (56), whose heart stopped as he was driving into Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday.

Ms Hartigan, who is leading a tour of Irish rugby fans around New Zealand for Rugby Travel Ireland, was attending a pre-match party at Eden Park when she heard a crash followed by a scream.

Ms Hartigan told the Independent.ie she was “looking after 160 people” on a tour on Saturday night at a venue near Eden Park, when she was alerted something was wrong.

“Myself and my work colleague, Cara, heard a crash,” she said. “We could hear shouting and people looking for help.

“We went down and there was a bit of a commotion, people were panicking, calling an ambulance and looking for a doctor.

“There was a man slumped in the front of his truck. I just went over to see if I could help. I was like ‘I’m not a paramedic, but I’ll try.’

“I jumped into the car and started compressions,” she said. “I just kept giving compressions on his chest and just after a minute or two, I could see a little flicker in his eye.

“We started calling at him, saying ‘Can you hear me?’ And he just woke up.

“The poor fella had about 10 heads looking in the window. He was like ‘What’s going on?’

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“He went blank, then he woke up with heads staring at him. There was this big cheer, it was great. It’s been a massively overwhelming week.”

The tour worker said she didn’t want “recognition” but she wanted to highlight “the importance of even basic CPR”.

“I want to bring home from this that even the basics can work and to try, this could happen anywhere and it’s not the most difficult thing in the world, it’s a skill everyone should learn.”

The Ireland fan added that there was now a “good chance a few New Zealanders are on our side”, for this Saturday’s game when Ireland take on the All Blacks once more.

Mr Herewini, who is a Waikato rugby development officer, does not recall anything after driving his vehicle into a parking space and then crashing into five cars after he fell onto the steering wheel.

Ms Hartigan told a local newspaper the Otago Daily Times the remainder of the evening, which she spent watching the All Blacks defeat Ireland, was a blur.

“I must admit I had a bit of a cry that evening,” she said.

Ms Hartigan had learned she would be in New Zealand only a week earlier, after starting a new job.

“The stars certainly aligned for us,” she said.

Mr Herewini’s twin brother, Phil, told the newspaper Ms Hartigan’s quick thinking saved his sibling.

“We’re very lucky that someone like that just jumped into it and did what she did. It could have ended up a little bit messy,” he said.

“You read about these things. You see them on TV. But when you experience it first-hand it’s incredible. We’re so humble and grateful.”

Mr Herewini was being treated in Auckland City Hospital. He had been taking his daughter and her friend to the match, when he became ill.

His twin told how his brother had collapsed and “put his right foot down onto the accelerator and was going into the next five cars”.

Mr Herewini’s daughter Kea called her uncle in a panic and that’s when Ms Hartigan rushed over to help.

"This lady came out and came over and noticed he had stopped breathing. She started CPR while he was sitting in the car and he became conscious again,” Kea said.

It was reported in Auckland that his heart had stopped beating for at least a minute.

Ms Hartigan said: "I didn't know what was going on. His daughter was obviously very upset and crying and calling for help.

"It just happened so fast. People were calling an ambulance but no one was going in and helping. It was just weird."

Phil Herewini posted a public appeal on the Auckland Irish Club Facebook on Monday to find Ms Hartigan to thank her for saving his brother’s life.

He wrote: “This was a life saving situation and (we’d) really like to pass on our love and thanks to this lady if anyone knows her…”

The pair have since spoken and Ms Hartigan told the newspaper how nice it had been talking to Mr Herewini and hearing his brother was in a “good place”.

She is intending to meet Mr Herewini before she leaves the country later this month.


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