Christchurch earthquake: 'Selfless' face of disaster farewelled

Family and friends gathered to farewell Shane Tomlin on a stunning day at St Pauls on the Hill in Kaikoura, overlooking the ocean. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Family and friends gathered to farewell Shane Tomlin on a stunning day at St Pauls on the Hill in Kaikoura, overlooking the ocean. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Shane Tomlin, whose face became one of the best-known from the devastation of Christchurch, was laid to rest yesterday - his sister telling mourners he had asked rescuers to help others before him.

Footage and photos of Mr Tomlin being carried from the rubble outside the Trocadero Bakery in Colombo St were seen worldwide after photographers from the Press newspaper captured the scene.

He was carried away on the roof of a police car but was not heard from again. Although his family believed he was alive because of that footage, police told them five days later that he had died from his injuries after reaching hospital.

Yesterday, his family and friends gathered to farewell him on a stunning day at St Pauls on the Hill in Kaikoura, overlooking the ocean.

His sister Judith McLaughlin spoke on behalf of the family, describing Mr Tomlin as a "selfless, gentle, kind and unassuming" man who was simply going about his usual business doing the job he loved.

"When he was waiting to be rescued, he told those trying to help him, "Help the others first, don't worry about me. I'll look after myself'."

As an adult he had a quiet nature and liked to keep to himself, but was fond of his nine nieces and nephews.

"He was a guy who didn't like a fuss," Ms McLaughlin said. "He would have hated the fact his face was in the paper and on television, and was a very public face of the tragedy.

"We love you, Shane, and will miss you incredibly, but know you will always be in our hearts."

Letters from his friends and colleagues were also read out, including one from Trocadero staff member Bev Broomhall, who was not in the bakehouse when the earthquake hit.

She said Mr Tomlin had arrived at work on the Tuesday morning and said there would be a quake that day because there had been a big one in Argentina and the whales had beached.

"And oh we joked about which bench we would shelter under if there was a big one. But we didn't get the chance."

Ms Broomhall said Mr Tomlin was initially shy, but soon opened up. He would give her half his apple each day, talk about his garden and his favourite racehorses, and would start work early on Wednesdays so she did not have to unload the supplies.

Many also spoke of his fondness for his pet turtle, Mr Turtle, whose photo featured on the back of the funeral service sheet. An old friend and former flatmate, Tui, remembered arriving home to find Mr Tomlin had started the log fire on cold winter nights and put his two turtles in front of it to bask.

She said one of the rare times Mr Tomlin showed emotion was when Mrs Turtle died.

Others remembered his appetite - including breakfasts of 10 Weet-Bix, a love of pepper and pumpkin soup, and "eating anything and everything - raw scone dough, raw potato".

Mr Tomlin was buried in Kaikoura's cemetery. His three younger sisters and their husbands were his pallbearers and a niece played the bagpipes.

- NZ Herald

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