Gary Morton relives the night when he sat with the body of his partner, who died in the Kaikoura earthquake.

Jo-Anne Mackinnon died because of the Kaikoura earthquake.

For the man who shared his life with her, there was no doubt.

It's almost six months since Mackinnon, who died without knowing she was to be a grandmother, was killed in the Mt Lyford log cabin she shared with partner Gary Morton.

In the hours after the magnitude 7.8 thumper ripped across the northeast of the South Island, there was confusion.

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Media reports, based on information given by authorities, described Mackinnon as the victim of a heart attack.

Many still believe the mother-of-two died from a medical event, rather than injury caused by the earthquake centred near their mountain home, Morton said.

The Ministry of Justice was not able to confirm yesterday if an inquest will be held and, if so, when.

But an autopsy finding by forensic pathologist Johan Duflou, seen by the Weekend Herald, states the 55-year-old's death was believed caused by "blunt force head
injury (earthquake fatality)".

"People still think it was a heart attack. [The mistake] did a lot of damage. She was in good health."

Gary Morton's tattoo, inked in memory of partner Jo-Anne Mackinnon, who died in November's Kaikoura earthquake. Photo / Supplied
Gary Morton's tattoo, inked in memory of partner Jo-Anne Mackinnon, who died in November's Kaikoura earthquake. Photo / Supplied

As the incorrect cause of death was being shared with hundreds of thousands of Kiwis following the 12.02am quake, Morton and the couple's Border Collie dog, Otis, were sitting alone in the dark next to her body.

It would be 14 hours - and many aftershocks - before a helicopter arrived to fly Mackinnon's body to Christchurch, Morton said.

"I've never felt so lonely, so vulnerable."

The couple were going to bed when the quake struck. He was "smashed" through the front door and felt himself being "lifted up in the air".

In her last moments, Mackinnon was behind him.

"I can still feel her hitting me in the back as she went down."

He was told later Mackinnon was struck in the left temple - he believes by a post that was forced away from the staircase by the quake's power.

"It was just a freak thing."

Damage to the log cabin following November's big quake. Photo / Supplied
Damage to the log cabin following November's big quake. Photo / Supplied

As the worst sunk in, the kindness of people - strangers, friends and family - helped.

He wanted to thank everyone who had come to his aid, starting with the German tourist - he never learned his name - who responded to his plea for help at nearby Mt Lyford Lodge.

The man was at his side as Morton attempted CPR.

"He stopped me after about six minutes and said 'she's gone'."

Others who supported him included civil defence volunteer Ross Barnes, Veteran Car Rims owners Brian and Gwen Black, and helicopter companies and staff who flew Mackinnon and her family to her burial in the then cut-off Kaikoura.

Even his experience with the Earthquake Commission and IAG staff was positive.

"I was probably the first person in New Zealand paid out. The two ladies there went into bat for me, because I had no fight left."

Family - especially his sister, Janice - had been amazing, including with the big job of clearing out the red-stickered log cabin, where Mackinnon's freshly-made orange and lime marmalade lay smashed on the floor.

The mess left in the log cabin after the quake. Photo / Supplied
The mess left in the log cabin after the quake. Photo / Supplied

Life went on, but it wasn't easy.

Border Collie Otis was a comfort.

"I'd be a bit lost without him. He's someone to hug."

Morton is planning a new home at Pegasus, north of Christchurch, and hoped to eventually split his time between his two homes.

He had loved the log cabin, but memories haunted him.

"Every time you go through the doorway, I used to go cold and get shivers. It felt like you were walking over the top of her."

It had been hard to find a partner who would live in such an isolated place, but Mackinnon, a former high-level Corrections employee, fitted right in.

"I just lived for her. I spoiled her rotten."

Jo-Anne Mackinnon and Gary Morton's Mt Lyford log cabin before the November 14 earthquake. Photo / Supplied
Jo-Anne Mackinnon and Gary Morton's Mt Lyford log cabin before the November 14 earthquake. Photo / Supplied

There were still good things in life - one being the pending arrival of Mackinnon's first grandchild in July.

The baby was conceived before Mackinnon's death, but her eldest daughter had not yet shared the good news.

Morton believed Mackinnon, in her own way, knew.

"She had asked one or two friends for baby patterns to knit something. She had a premonition."