IDF training helps save lives in Perth

March 24, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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A former Israeli counter-terrorism soldier has been awarded Australia’s prestigious Bravery Medal for saving five people from a fire which destroyed a Perth shopping centre.

It was just another minor household task to be dealt with when, in October 2008,  Matti Minsk entered the IGA supermarket in the Perth suburb of Wembley Downs to stock up on fruit and veggies.

Matti Mintz

He told J-Wire: “As I parked my car, I could smell smoke but didn’t think too much about it. When I entered the supermarket, the door shut behind me. It was a one way door and the only exit was at the other side of the store…a long way off. In front of me I saw two old women, a teenage girl and a woman holding a baby shopping in the fruit and veg section. Suddenly, thick black smoke starting pouring out of the air conditioner vents. I tried to open the entry door but eventually had to smash a metal plate to get it to open. I screamed at the shoppers to get out but only the teenager made a run for it. The others seemed frozen where they stood…too scared to move. Suddenly, there was an explosion in the ceiling so I left the door, which slammed shut on me again, and ran to the group grabbing the two old women and screaming at the young mother to follow. I had to force the door open again and got the women out…but the mother and her child had not followed us and were still rooted to where they were standing. By now the smoke was really thick and I could barely see. Instinct took over and I dashed back into the supermarket and grabbed the young mother and baby, pulling them out just as the ceiling crashed down on the spot where they had been standing.

I got her into her car which was parked very close to the building but I noticed she had not moved. I ran back to the car and she told me: “The baby is not strapped in”. I screamed at her to just get out of there and strap the baby in around the corner…she then drove off…and I called triple-O.”

The shopping centre was destroyed in the ensuing blaze.

Matti Mintz, now 33, was born in Kibbutz Avikim moving later to Meot Golan where his parents still live. He met his wife Jenny in Thailand when travelling after completing his military service in the Duchifat Unit of the Israeli Defence Force…a unit specialising in counter-terrorism.

He told J-Wire: “Jenny and I lived to London where we were married in 2002 before moving back to settle in her home town of Perth.

Mintz, a lawyer who works for the National Australia Bank, will receive his National Bravery Award in September. He has received a letter of commendation from the NAB Chairman, Michael Chaney. He said: “I have been told I can now use the letters B.M. after my name! But I am looking forward to the ceremony at which I think the Governor will award the medals.”

He told J-Wire: “I have no idea who I saved. I have tried so hard to make contact with them but up until now have failed to do so. It would be good to meet them.”

Asked if he thought his IDF training had played a pivotal role in gaining the award, Mintz said: “It was fight or flight. People needed my help. I fought.”

Mintz is now an Australian citizen. He still lives in Wembley Downs with his wife Jenny and their daughters Maya and Noa.

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