Irish rescuer a hero in New Zealand earthquake
26-year-old hurler dragged a woman to freedom from beneath the rubble
An Irish hurler was a hero of the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left at least 75 people dead and more than 300 trapped under debris.
Donegal hurler Patrick McGowan, who is also the grandson of an Irish senator, pulled free a young woman buried beneath a pile of rubble in a fallen building.
The 26-year-old, who only arrived in New Zealand a month ago, also put his shoulder beneath a steel bar to free a trapped man, but unfortunately he died.
McGowan, who moved to Christchurch after spending two years in Australia, is son of Donegal Fianna Fail county councilor Patrick McGowan and grandson of the late Paddy McGowan, who was a senator for 40 years.
In addition to his rescue of the young woman, police in Christchurch also recruited him to direct people away from an Irish bar with leaking gas.
McGowan, from Killygordon, Co. Donegal, said that he probably had a lucky escape from serious injury or death as he would have been working on high scaffolding during the earthquake, but it was his day off.
He was in the city center on High Street in an Internet café working on Facebook on a computer on the first floor when the earthquake struck.
As the street outside cracked and debris started falling McGowan thought of his friends in the city center and he moved away in search of them, but he only progressed past a couple of shops when he could see people in trouble.
“I immediately ran in to try and help those people. I realized when I went in there were loads of people under where I was so we tried to clear the bricks away,” he said.
“We lifted up some steel. I knelt down on the ground and got my shoulder under a lump of steel and tried to lift it up. I was trying to wake a guy.
“There was a girl lying beside him and I could make sense of the girl. She was conscious. She was still half-buried. We eventually got all rubble off them and me and another guy pulled the man out who was unconscious.
“I kind of knew by the time when we had him out in the middle of the road that he was dead.”
McGowan and other helpers then cared for the young woman, and then he saw a man climbing a ladder on to the same building.
McGowan said, “I was shouting at him to get down. We had an after-shock about 15 minutes after the initial earthquake and I was just shouting at him. He jumped down and the tremor started. Then he went back up again. He said there were people in there.
“He was just smashing the window through. It turned out he probably saved about 20 people then. They all came down the ladder.”
McGowan said he put his own survival in the earthquake at about 50/50.
He said, “On each side of me both buildings came down. I was pretty lucky. It’s mostly old red brick buildings that came down. A couple of big office buildings came down as well and there are a lot of casualties there as well, a lot of fatalities, a lot of people still trapped there.”
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