Fate of 'front page survivor' revealed

By Paul Harper

Police forensic teams study the CTV building that collapsed during the earthquake. Photo / Doug Sherring
Police forensic teams study the CTV building that collapsed during the earthquake. Photo / Doug Sherring

For days Shane Tomlin's family held on to hope he would be alright after seeing footage of the 42-year-old's dirty, pained face after he was pulled from the wreckage of a Cashel Mall building on Tuesday.

Last night that hope was extinguished.

The family have been told by police that Mr Tomlin, the eldest of four, died in Tuesday's 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

Mr Tomlin's sister, Judith McLaughlin, flew over from her home in Brisbane last night to be told the news.

"They identified his body last night," she said.

Mrs McLaughlin moved to Australia a couple of years ago with her husband, who is also from Christchurch.

"When the earthquake hit, my husband, who works in the mines, told me there had been another big earthquake in Christchurch and wanted me to call his family to see if they were alright," she said.

Her husband's family was safe, but Mr Tomlin had not been heard from.

Later that night his blackened face was broadcast around the world.

"We thought at that stage he was okay," Mrs McLaughlin said.

When the earthquake struck at 12.51pm, Mr Tomlin was in the upper level of a Cashel Mall building where he worked as a baker at the Trocadero Bakery.

Rescuers came to his aid when the building collapsed and he was taken to hospital on the roof of a police car - a person on each side holding his stretcher.

His family knew Mr Tomlin did not have identification on him, and for days frantically called hospitals to find out what had happened to him.

Even now, Mrs McLaughlin is none the wiser.

"We know there was a nurse who came to his aid. She rode on the top of a police car with him to the hospital. From when they dropped him off at the hospital and when the doctors took over, we don't know what happened next."

The family is now together reflecting on Mr Tomlin's life and preparing for his funeral, which will be held in Kaikoura on Friday.

"He was quite a quiet person. Very unassuming," Mrs McLaughlin said.

She said her brother left home aged 15 to do a bakery course. He lived alone in the suburb of Waltham, with a pet turtle and some fish.

Mr Tomlin was a keen gardener who loved his vegetable garden, Mrs Laughlin said.

She said her brother kept to himself, not often calling his siblings - until the 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit last year.

"He wasn't good at keeping in touch," she said. "But after the September earthquake he must have got more of sense of family. He sort of softened up."

Mr Tomlin was a big fan of Metallica and Led Zeppelin, his sister said.

"He told a friend when he died he wants Metallica played at his funeral," she said. "We're waiting to hear from a good friend to know which song."

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