“I landed directly on top of my head. I remember seeing my feet pointing up at the sky, and the tools falling out of my apron. And I heard the crunch as my neck broke.” – Rhett Brown, Life Saver.
Born and raised in Whangarei, Rhett left school in 1968 after 6th form. He worked locally for a while, before joining the Forestry Service in 1970 where he working as a hunter on animal control in the Kaimai Ranges and on Raoul Island. In 1973, he joined the NZ Police and served 20 years, before being invalided out with an injury sustained while arresting a violent offender.
A keen runner and health and fitness devotee, Rhett once enjoyed an active life pursuing many of his passions and interests, which included hunting and shooting with his dogs. He was also an antique furniture restorer, and ran an antique shop with his former wife for eight years. During this time they also bought and renovated eight houses and developed and managed a small lifestyle property. In 1998 they enjoyed semi-retirement, moving to Warkworth to buy, renovate and sell property. He had a job working as a builders labourer and hammer-hand and was on track to meet his goals until 9.15am on the 30th July 2004.
While at work one day, he took a 2.2 metre fall and broke his neck. Within a matter of seconds, he became a C6/C7 tetraplegic. A near-suicide, divorce, rehabilitation later, Rhett rose above the challenges to become a successful speaker and author. His life may have been turned upside-down, but with sheer guts, perseverance and willpower, Rhett adapted and now leads a full and exciting life. Yet despite this, he is constantly reminded that his condition was caused by an accident at work that he didn't want or ask for – and all of it could have been prevented.
Winner of “Significant Individual Contribution to Health and Safety in the Construction Industry 2012”, at the national site safe construction industry awards 31st October 2012. Rhett now works as a professional motivational speaker, inspiring change in workplaces across New Zealand by sharing his story with others.