Friday 24 November 2017

Family, friends bid farewell to 'little man who made us smile'

Paul Kimberley in Christchurch

THE youngest victim of the Christchurch earthquake was laid to rest yesterday.

Family and friends gathered for the funeral of five-month-old Baxtor Gowland who was asleep at home last Tuesday when the 6.3-magnitude quake struck. He was hit by falling masonry and died later in hospital.

Mourners wept as the coffin was carried from a chapel in the suburb of Riccarton to a waiting car. A red lorry was embroidered on a blanket over the casket and Baxtor's mother, Breanna, held a teddy bear as she accompanied the coffin to the cemetery.

Baxtor's father Shaun McKenna wrote in a Facebook tribute: "To the little man who made everyone smile, may you look down upon us and help us remember your beautiful face."

Baxtor is one of only eight victims, including another baby, who have been publicly identified so far.

Two more of the dead were named as Natasha Hadfield (38) and Owen Wright (40), both from Christchurch. Another 22 people are believed to be buried under rubble at Christchurch Cathedral, whose famous bell tower fell in.

As 600 rescue workers continued to sift through the ruins, violent windstorms and aftershocks brought down more masonry and whipped up dust and silt, forcing rescuers to retreat.


The outer suburb of Sumner was evacuated after large cracks appeared in a cliff, bringing fears that it would collapse on houses below.

One-third of Christchurch city centre faces demolition, and thousands of people whose homes have been condemned have been banned from returning to collect their belongings.

Dozens of the Gowland's family and friends, most wearing baby-blue ribbons pinned to their mourning black, gathered at a small chapel.

A slide show of the smiling infant's photographs flashed on a screen as Sarah McLachlan's song 'Angel' echoed throughout the room.

After the ceremony, the tiny white casket, bearing a wreath of white flowers, was carried by a single pall-bearer to a waiting car.

Peter Croft, the child's great-uncle, read a statement thanking people from New Zealand and around the world for their support but asking for privacy during the funeral.

The death toll reached 154 early yesterday "and we expect that to continue climbing, unfortunately," Police Inspector Russell Gibson said.

More than 50 victims are still missing a week after the quake devastated the city.

New Zealanders planned to observe two minutes' silence from 12:51pm local time to mark one week since the quake hit, killing up to 200 and turning much of central Christchurch, the country's third biggest city, into a heap of rubble.

"We have lost people, the city is wrecked, it will be a moment of emotion and pain," Christchurch mayor Bob Parker said.

Irish Independent

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