Helicopter owner offers to fly body of earthquake victim home

Gary Morton wants to do one last thing for the woman he shared his life with before tragedy struck their Mt Lyford log cabin home.
Gary Morton wants to do one last thing for the woman he shared his life with before tragedy struck their Mt Lyford log cabin home.

A helicopter owner has offered to fly the body of Jo-Anne Mackinnon home for burial in Kaikoura after she died in this week's earthquake.

Mackinnon passed away in the magnitude 7.8 magnitude quake that struck the South Island's northeast shortly after midnight on Monday.

READ MORE:
Quake: She was dead in my arms

Her partner Gary Morton earlier told the Herald that his family could probably raise the money to pay for the helicopter, but he was worried companies might be too stretched helping with the quake relief effort to fly Mackinnon's body north.

"It's the getting somebody who's free. They are all so bloody busy."

Since then a Christchurch helicopter owner has contacted Morton and offered to fly his partner's body to Kaikoura so she can be buried. They will also transport Morton and his family in a separate chopper.

Morton earlier told the Herald he wants to do one last thing for the woman he shared his life with before tragedy struck their Mt Lyford log cabin home, in the mountains 140km north of Christchurch.

He wants to return the 55-year-old to the place she came into the world.

"She was born in Kaikoura and has a family plot there," he told the Weekend Herald.

Morton said the couple ran for the door when the quake struck.

"I could feel her hitting my back. Then some bolts holding the log cabin down broke and the cabin moved very sharply and we both hit the ground hard.

"I have lots of cuts but that's all. I could not find her and was yelling out with no reply."

He went to his car and turned the headlights on.

"I put the lights on the doorway and there she was."

With no power or phone, and few permanent residents in the village, Morton sought help at Mt Lyford Lodge 500m away.

Staff were helping guests so a tourist went back to the cabin with him, Morton said. They attempted CPR, but Mackinnon was gone.

It was 14 hours before a helicopter arrived to take Mackinnon's body to Christchurch. Morton stayed by her side the whole time.

The hours before dawn were hard.

"It was terrible ... I've never, ever felt so helpless and alone in my life. It was pitch dark, the house was gone, it was still shaking and she was dead in my arms."

A preliminary report from the coroner indicated the cause of death was unknown, with full findings expected in eight weeks, he said.

Mackinnon's funeral will take place at St Peter's Catholic Church in Christchurch on Tuesday afternoon.

- NZ Herald

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