Thanks lads, you’re heroes

DON’T MENTION IT: Jackson Rickford, Michael Zechel, Elijah Startin and Jereme Wann with Alwyne Watkins. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.ALWYNE Watkins is certain ofwhatwould have happenedtheday a six-metre sinkhole opened up beneath the wheels ofhis mobility scooterhadfour teenagersnotrushedto his aid.

“I wouldn’t be here,” Mr Watkins, of Wallsend, said.

“They saved my life. The four of them are heroes in my eyes.”

Jackson Rickford, Michael Zechel andElijah Startin, all 17, and 16-year-old Jereme Wannwere kicking a soccer ball around atWallsend’s George Farley Oval two days before Christmas when they sawMr Watkins approaching on hisscooter.

He stopped in the middle of a path about 100 metres from the boys, then seemed to vanish.

Mr Zechel was first to react.

“I sprintedover and jumped the fencebecause I thought he’d had a fall,” he said.

“Then I looked under my feet and I could see all the way down. It scared the hell out of me.”

Mr Zechelliftedthe scooter with one hand and fought until he hadlifted Mr Watkins, 90, out fromthe craterof the hole where he had been pinned.

At one point, the only thingstopping Mr Watkins from falling into the six-metre hole was having Mr Zechel’s legs wrapped around him.

The other three boysrushed over to find a shaken, gratefulman and his rescuer, their mate.

Mr Startindialedtriple-0 and handed hisphone to a neighbourand paramedics, police and contractors from the Mine Subsidence Board soon arrived.

Mr Watkins was taken to John Hunter Hospital, but hisphysical injuries were limited toa chipped elbow,cracked rib and a cut to his leg that neededstitches.

Part of his gratitude to the boys, he said, stems from the fact that he has grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.

“Thanks to the boys, Iget to have a bitmore time with them,” Mr Watkins said.

Sinkholesor not,neither Mr Watkins nor his rescuers will be put off walking, playing or riding inthe park.

The four mates said on Wednesdaytheyhad been back for a kick around, and Mr Watkins haddriven by to wave from his new scooter.

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