Matamata, New Zealand

George Medal
Gazetted 29 May 1970, p6040
Mr. Murray Hemopo was the shift-boss in the Kaimai Tunnel when, on Tuesday, 24th February 1970, there was a cave-in which lulled four men and trapped a further seven.  At the time of the cave-in, Mr. Hemopo was working 340 feet from the portal with a party of four men. He organised his party into two shifts of two men to rescue a man trapped up to his waist in fallen timbers and rock debris and lying in the water which was accumulating in the bottom of the tunnel. It took them about 12 hours of continuous work to finally free the trapped man by which time water was up to his chin.  Mr. Hemopo then organised the freeing of another man who had been completely buried in the fall.  The removal of the timber and rock required great skill as there was the ever-present danger of precipitating a further fall of debris which could have engulfed the whole party. After the rescuers had been working continuously in an extremely dangerous situation for more than 30 hours without food or sleep the second man was freed.  By this time voice and telephone contact had been made with the trapped men from the surface and medical supplies, food and dry clothing were lowered into the tunnel. Mr. Hemopo was then able to give first aid to the two injured men.  Mr. Hemopo, by supplying measurements and other information, greatly assisted those organizing the rescue operations on the surface and when the rescue shaft was within a few feet of the tunnel, he organised his small work force to strengthen the tunnel timbering in the vicinity of the break-through.  Mr. Hemopo was the last of the party to leave the tunnel and finally emerged to the surface more than 80 hours after the initial cave-in. The leadership displayed by Mr. Hemopo was of the highest quality and this together with his skill and courage contributed greatly to the success of the rescue operation.

George Medal

Born 4 April 1933
Died 29 April 2001 New Zealand