Christchurch earthquake: Woman puts life on line to save friend's baby

By Elizabeth Binning

Tania Seelen-Trowbridge and daughter Willow Day, 7 months, were in a supermarket when the earthquake struck. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Tania Seelen-Trowbridge and daughter Willow Day, 7 months, were in a supermarket when the earthquake struck. Photo / Sarah Ivey

As the lights went out and bits of the supermarket's ceiling began to fall, Kate Milne didn't think twice about throwing herself on top of her friend's baby to help save her life.

The Christchurch woman was in the Eastgate Countdown with her friend Tania Seelen-Trowbridge and baby Willow when the earthquake struck on Tuesday.

As the building shook violently and groceries flew from the shelves, the two women's only concern was how to protect Willow, who was lying in a baby capsule inside the supermarket trolley.

"We were trying to cover her in the trolley with our bodies so nothing could hit her," Ms Milne told the Weekend Herald.

Ms Milne dived over the front of the trolley and was pinned between it and a drinks cabinet when she was hit in the back of her head by a falling airconditioning unit.

The force of the blow jarred her body and pushed her face into the trolley's handle, breaking her nose and exposing a sharp bit of bone.

Even though several millimetres of bone were poking through her skin, Ms Milne's first thought was 'where's the baby, where's Tania'."

Fortunately both were safe and they were all helped out of the darkened building.

Ms Milne said she didn't at first realise the extent of her injury.

"When they were walking us out my face felt wet and then I realised there was blood pouring out of my nose.

"I was walking with my hands over my face and one of the girls from the supermarket stopped and took off her top so I could put it over my face to stop the blood."

Yesterday, Ms Milne played down her role in saving Willow's life, saying the baby's wellbeing was her first and only priority. "I would rather it was me than either of them. If the baby had got hit [by the airconditioning unit] she probably would have died. If it was [Tania] she wouldn't have been able to look after her children."

She also says she wouldn't hesitate to do it again, even with her injury, which pales in comparison to what some people have gone through.

"The bone is poking through the skin on my face. It's kind of gross but at least I'm alive."

Willow's mother says she is grateful to Ms Milne for helping to save her daughter.

Ms Seelen-Trowbridge said the pair initially tried to guide the trolley to safety when the quake struck but the shaking was so violent that they couldn't steer it.

"Everything on the shelves just started falling down and then the lights went out and it just went dark.

"We tried to push the trolley away from us because we were just getting hit with everything from the shelves and the roof started hitting us on the head."

Ms Seelen-Trowbridge also jumped on to the top of the trolley from the other end in a bid to protect her daughter and was hit repeatedly in the head, causing bumps, bruises and cuts.

Ms Seelen-Trowbridge said Willow wouldn't be here today if she had been hit by the falling debris.

Willow was clingy after the earthquake but did not appear to have had any lasting trauma from her ordeal.

Ms Milne is waiting to see a plastic surgeon next week to deal with the bone, which is still protruding from the skin on her nose.

- NZ Herald

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