Christchurch earthquake: Diary saves Tattoo artist's life

By Anna Leask

Jak and Matt Parkin hope Matti McEachen will be identified quickly because of his tattoos. He died in last week's quake. Photo / Greg Bowker
Jak and Matt Parkin hope Matti McEachen will be identified quickly because of his tattoos. He died in last week's quake. Photo / Greg Bowker

Tattoo artist Matt Parkin keeps a daily journal. Last week it saved his life.

Mr Parkin was working at the Southern Ink Tattoo studio on Colombo St when last week's quake struck. His apprentice Matti McEachen was killed as the building collapsed and another staffer, Bonnie Singh, managed to crawl to safety with her back broken in six places.

Mr Parkin told the Herald yesterday that he had gone outside to write in his journal - about his wife Jak and how special she was to him - when the quake struck.

Mr Parkin and the woman he was about to tattoo, Emma Rox, who had come out to talk to him, both ran for their lives down the alley.

"I saw Emma following me, the whole back of the buildings along the alley were just falling. Then I looked back and Emma had disappeared in a cloud of dust. I thought 'she's gone' and I had to keep on running."

Mr Parkin got to the front of the building and saw his studio in ruins.

Ms Rox appeared a couple of seconds later.

"I was yelling for Matti and Bonnie. I thought they were dead.

"Then [Bonnie] appeared through this tiny hole. She crawled out saying 'where's Matti, where's Matti'."

Miss Singh told Mr and Mrs Parkin about her experience when they visited her yesterday.

"She was right behind Matti. They were running for the road, which had been our escape plan since September 4. Bonnie, being a mother, went back to grab her cellphone, it must have bought her some time, it put her a few seconds behind Matti, said Mr Parkin.

"She watched him open the door and run out, and then she got hit in the head by something flying."

Once Ms Singh emerged from the rubble, others had arrived and were digging to find Mr McEachen.

"The rubble was just too heavy. They uncovered enough of Matti to know that he hadn't survived," said Mr Parkin, who saw his apprentice's legs and fell to his knees in shock.

"There was no point in digging. I didn't want to see him, not like that. Just moments before I had rubbed him on the back and complimented him on his shoes ... and then bang, he was gone. Just like that."

Ms Singh is in Burwood Hospital with six fractured vertebrae in her back and one in her neck.

Police interviewed Mr Parkin about what his apprentice was wearing and details of his tattoos in the hope of confirming faster whether he has been recovered.

Mrs Parkin remembered Mr McEachen's favourite saying.

"The best way to eliminate a negative is to replace it with a positive. That's how he lived," she said.

- NZ Herald

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