The abiding memory of Xavier Trousselot-Rhodes before an earthquake threw him out of his second-storey bedroom was of the house screaming.

And the dust - 90 years of dust forcing into his airways, like tear gas.

Xavier, 16, is a survivor. He remembers nestling between his bed and the outside wall to protect himself from the sudden violence - only the wall wasn't there, and he tumbled 5m to the ground.

He was lying on his back with bricks under him and above him, wearing only his boxers, with his father, Allan Rhodes, throwing bricks off him.

Xavier, barely scratched, returned to the scene yesterday with his mother, Kris Trousselot.

"There wasn't time to really react; the house was just screaming, really ... making a bunch of crazy noises as it began to crumble."

His mother had prayed for him on Friday, as was her habit, especially when he left her house in Oxford to stay at the house she once shared with Xavier's father.

Not on account of the father, but on account of the house and the spirit or spirits the family think have also called it home over many years.

Xavier ventures to suggest the screaming might have been the spirits.

They are aware it sounds a bit dubious, but Xavier and his mother recount stories of pictures moving, the lights switching on and off when she invited the spirits to show themselves, and of a soldier-like spirit in a long trench coat and hat.

"I firmly believe God saved him," Xavier's mother said.

She is also thankful that a cold had kept his brother Christian at her place on Friday because his bed was crushed by the heavy ceiling that fell.

Attending church yesterday in Oxford was a special occasion.

Xavier's father said he had recently decided to do up the house, known as the Hororata homestead, and had offered his son double rates to help water blast the house on Saturday.

He is happy to share his story with the world because he is glad to be alive.