– On the collapsed PGC building Cambridge Terrace.

I was in the ACC building (2nd floor) on Oxford Terrace when the February quake struck. I dived under my desk and felt the whole building jump vertically. Shelving, books and equipment collapsed over my desk. We rapidly evacuated the staff down the stair well which had pieces of concrete, glass and water dropping into it as we made our way to the street. Across the Avon River I could see that the PGC building had just collapsed with smoke and dust still rising from the rubble so I ran across to see if I could help. As I arrived a TV3 film crew was already on site filming! Myself and a number of other bystanders pushed a large dumpster up against the building and assisted the newly arrived fire service crew to climb up onto the building. They then requested assistance so I also climbed up and helped with the early recovery efforts. The top 3 floors of the building had collapsed and ‘pancaked’ into a pile of concrete rubble, glass and metal. We were able to pull 10? or so people out of the rubble within the first hour – a number of these people had horrible injuries which will stay with me for the rest of my life. People were screaming and the building continued to shake and move as large aftershocks hit. At one point a very large piece of concrete (probably a tonne or so) detached from the top of the building and fell towards a number of us standing on the top of the building- by some miracle it caught on what was left of the lip of the building just above us and stopped otherwise we would have been crushed. Myself and another bystander assisted over a couple of hours with a man visiting from Australia who was trapped by his arm and leg under a large concrete block. We located his cell phone and managed to call his wife in Australia to tell her what was happening. I was very sad to hear later that this man had died. I stayed on the PGC building helping the fire service and police until approximately 5 pm or so. By that stage I felt exhausted and concerned about my own family so I left the building and walked to Kilmore Street. After digging my car out of a large liquifaction flow, I was able to drive through the city towards home. The streets were covered with people wandering aimlessly in a shocked state and emergency vehicles driving at speed towards the central city. I still have disturbed sleep as a consequence of what happened on 22/2/11 and I have had a number of trauma counselling sessions with a psychologist to try and make sense of the whole thing. I don’t know if I ever will be able to really – only time will slowly dull the memories I think. I do know that my life changed completely.

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