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Tangiwai's unsung heroes to be honoured

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/05/2017

The heroism of two men whose actions prevented a much higher death toll in New Zealand's worst rail tragedy will be recognised at a public memorial service.

Locomotive Engineer First Class Charles Parker and Locomotive Fireman Lance Redman sacrificed their own lives to save 134 others during the 1953 Tangiwai disaster in the central North Island.

A memorial stone will be unveiled in their honour at Tangiwai Memorial Park, off State Highway 49, on Sunday.

On Christmas Eve 1953, 151 people died after the Wellington-Auckland night service plunged into the swollen Whangaehu River at Tangiwai, 10km west of Waiouru.

A volcanic mud flow from the slopes of Mount Ruapehu had earlier swept away the Tangiwai rail bridge.

As the bridge began to crumple, Parker initiated an emergency brake application while Redman sanded the tracks for 200 metres to help the train to brake faster.

They were able to prevent the last three carriages, guards van and postal van from falling into the river.

Tangiwai Memorial committee chairman Bob Norling says that, until now, the two had not been formally recognised for their actions.

He says the memorial is the culmination of a huge community effort.

"We are so proud to have led this project to honour these brave men and have their monument sit at the Tangiwai site dedicated to those who perished in the disaster."

KiwiRail, Mainline Steam and the Rail Enthusiasts Society are running a return steam engine service from Auckland to Palmerston North for people wanting to attend the service.

Information is available at www.gvr.co.nz.

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