Bricklayer's death carries a dreadful irony

By Andrew Koubaridis

Marcus White and Liana Bush are comforted by a stranger while collecting personal effects from Liana's deceased father's car.  Photo / Greg Bowker
Marcus White and Liana Bush are comforted by a stranger while collecting personal effects from Liana's deceased father's car. Photo / Greg Bowker

Ross Bush finished his bricklaying work some time after noon on Tuesday and had stopped outside a bakery before heading off to his next job.

His daughter Liana Bush, 41, says he probably was about to get his usual - "a pie and probably a milkshake" - when tragedy struck him and hundreds of others.

Before he could go inside, the 6.3 quake that has devastated Christchurch shook the bakery facade off the building and pounded his car with bricks and rubble.

Yesterday, Liana Bush made an emotional visit to where he died on Riccarton Rd, partly for closure but also to try to retrieve his belongings.

Friends who had driven past couldn't see the car and she wondered whether it had been towed away. But yesterday, she and her partner Marcus White found it, flattened by debris.

"It's just wrong that he's gone like this. We went searching for him and managed to get through the cordon at the hospital," she said through tears.

A police officer who knew her father told her what happened to him and where to look. "He warned me it wouldn't be pleasant but if I had to go there I should go - but I wasn't expecting to see that."

She said it was ironic her father had been a bricklayer since he was 15 and it was "bloody bricks" that killed him. "He would have found that funny. That's the sort of sense of humour he had."

It was important for her to be able to take home his belongings. "That bag is probably 100 years old," she laughed. "He's a bricklayer so everything went into his bag. You know he doesn't have a computer or email so everything got written down."

Scrawled on the note pad found in the front seat was a list he'd made, probably the night before the earthquake. It was of things he had to do, each one carefully crossed out as it was completed.

One job remained for Tuesday at 2pm - to quote on a bricklaying job. That person later phoned, worried Mr Bush never made the appointment.

Liana Bush managed to salvage items including his comb, sunglasses and his gloves, which she put on.

"He was just so special, so old-school, such a good man. He was teaching me how to ride. I was just cycling with him the other day and he was pissed off 'cause I wouldn't put my cleats on. I kept riding in my normal running shoes."

Despite his 74 years, Mr Bush remained an avid cyclist. "Cycling was his life." He had 10 bikes at home and "all the flash cycling gear, like Lance Armstrong".

A well-known cyclist around Christchurch, Mr Bush represented New Zealand and started a cycling group on Wednesday nights.

As she searched through the grim scene yesterday Ms Bush wore an old tracksuit jacket her father was given when he made a representative team.

This weekend her family are gathering to remember him and times they'd shared. The funeral is a long way off being planned and his body still has to be formally identified.

Ms Bush said her father taught her and her sisters Nadine, Monique and Nicole and brother Greg good values.

"He was a humble man ... He achieved so much and taught us so much. He's got all these grandchildren who love him so much."

He also taught them hard work. "He always taught us we had to earn what we had. ... it's not what you earn in life, it's what you save."

- NZ Herald

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