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Victoria’s Littlest Life-Saving Hero Inspires A Community

Four-year-old James Tonks is one of the youngest ever Victorians to be recognised as a Community Hero, for saving his grandmother’s life after a frightening bike accident exactly a year ago today.

James is already a hero to his beloved ‘Oma’ and today he became an inspiration to a community.

The Nar Nar Goon youngster was riding along a Paynesville track on the back of Maryke Van Duyl’s bike when they crashed making a U-turn, causing them both to fall.


Ms Van Duyl, 65, took the brunt of the impact and was knocked unconscious, bleeding heavily from a head laceration.

Unable to wake his grandmother, and with his own cuts and bruises, James bravely ran for help. He found a neighbour mowing his lawn and asked him to come quickly.

With the alarm raised and Triple Zero (000) called, it was not long before paramedics arrived and James was able to share the details he could remember about the crash. He also helped the paramedics with their equipment as they treated Ms Van Duyl.

Ms Van Duyl was transported to Bairnsdale Hospital, where she was cleared of a serious head injury and has since made a full recovery.

Paynesville paramedic Charles Gilbert nominated James as a Community Hero, impressed that he immediately thought to go for help following the shock of the accident and seeing his grandmother bleeding and unresponsive.

“For a four-year-old boy to have the presence of mind and initiative to run and get help is just extraordinary”.

Both Ms Van Duyl and Mr Gilbert were at the Parliament House ceremony today to proudly watch James receive his medal from Minister for Ambulance Services Jill Hennessy and Ambulance Victoria CEO Tony Walker.

And James, who starts school next year, is already preparing to teach his new classmates.

“I’m going to tell them how to dial Triple Zero (000), and also what to do so they can be community heroes.”

Mr Walker said James’ outstanding actions showed it was never too early to teach children when and how to get immediate help in an emergency.

“I’m extremely proud of our paramedics’ world-class skills and the work they do to save lives across Victoria every day.

“However our heroes demonstrate that we don’t do our work alone. Bystanders in the right place at the right time could be the difference to someone’s chances of survival in the first critical minutes of an emergency.

“It takes a community and I really couldn’t be prouder of James, and indeed of all of our heroes, whose courageous and selfless stories we’ve heard today. They didn’t hesitate to step in when it counted, and their efforts saved lives.”

“Knowing first aid, learning CPR and teaching children when and how to call Triple Zero (000) is something everyone can do – and it could make all the difference when faced with a life or death situation.”

2017 is the 18th year of Ambulance Victoria’s Community Hero Awards. This year, 15 Victorians were honoured for their incredible bravery and selfless actions to save lives.

A special award was also presented to the City of Melbourne to honour the many anonymous bystanders who comforted and cared for the injured in January’s Bourke Street tragedy.

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