Mr Darrell Tree CV

Mr Darrell Tree set out on 14 August 1988 to help a crane driver to remove wooden telephone poles beside his property. The driver had brought his three year old son with him.

Young Darrell Tree holding medal

In his own words, Mr Tree describes the event that led to him being awarded the highest of Australia's civilian bravery decorations.

‘As we were working, the jib of the crane came into contact with the 19 KW power line. I noticed sparks jumping from the crane’s tyres and realised at once that this was a highly dangerous situation. The driver managed to jump clear of the crane before attempting to go back for his son. I warned the driver not to touch the boy, repeatedly stopping him from going to the crane, knowing that doing so would risk electrocution. The boy was safe just sitting on the crane. When the driver stopped I went to get a rope.

‘Turning back, I saw that the driver had attempted to rescue his son. Both were standing there with electricity arcing through their bodies. I ran in and pushed the driver off with a shoulder bump to free him from the crane and the electricity, electrocuting myself in the process. Then I tried to restrain the driver from touching the boy again, was pushed onto the crane and electrocuted again.

‘While unconscious I saw a vivid white light. Standing above in the sky were three priests in ancient-type robes with about twenty people above them. I said "GOD I can’t die here, I have a wife and four children to look after.” Then everything went black again.

‘Regaining consciousness I saw the boy standing on the ground against the mudguard of the crane with electricity entering the right side of his head, passing through his body and coming out his right foot, smoke coming off his sandshoe. Knowing that he was being fatally electrocuted I went in a backward crouch, grabbed his shirt front to pull him clear and was again rendered unconscious from electricity.

‘When I regained consciousness, neither the driver nor his son were breathing so I attempted mouth to mouth resuscitation on both. The boy responded, but tragically despite further CPR the driver died .Then I drove the boy to meet the ambulance, driving 30 km to Elliston Hospital.

‘This act of courage caused me some serious injuries. I was electrocuted multiple times, received 96 stitches to my arms, back and feet and had skin grafts. One toe on my left foot had to be amputated and I received multiple burns to my back and three fractured vertebrae.’