In this story Mike Ryan describes rescuing Peter Symms. This story, and another telling of Peter’s experience , were originally posted in response to a photograph submitted to the CHCH EQ Photos Facebook page
I was just outside the Regent Building where I work , the picture theatre is in the Regent building, when the quake happened. After the dust settled I saw people were going under the veranda of the building. Fearing that aftershocks may cause more debris to fall I went around the building getting people to go to a clear space. When I got the entrance to the picture theatre the manageress came out & said there was someone trapped in the building. From memory her, a young camera man and another guy about my age went in to help. When we got to the theatre we found Peter lying on the floor obviously badly hurt & bleeding badly from head wounds & his wife Dorcas was bravely staying with Peter and had injuries to her leg. Just as we got there another big aftershock struck and I think I dived next to or on top of Peter. When the dust settled someone suggested that moving Peter might not be a good idea. I said in no uncertain terms that he & us stood a better chance being out of the building than staying. Peter was keen also. Peter is a big man & we had trouble supporting him & getting him from the back row of the theatre down to the front because we had to go over the seats as opposed to walking down the steps. When we lifted Peter up I heard a terrible creaking of bones and found out later he had multiple injuries but did not complain once. It was in the process of supporting Peter that I got the blood on me from Peter’s awful head wound. Once we got Peter out of the building we found a chair in the clear space of the Square and sat him down. It was there that the photo was taken.
In the photo from memory the lady in the blue/green dress is Welsh, but lives in Australia and I think may have been a nurse, and her daughter was behind her. A passing back packer gave us the thermal blanked. One of the 2 men had first aid training and I think had the bandages. Dorcas, I think, was sitting on the bench seating behind us. Two doctors came past and I can distinctly remember one telling me to stop the bleeding no matter how hard I had to press and also telling all of us we had to keep Peter talking & not to let him drift off. Sometime after this a van came along & we put Peter in the van with Dorcas to transport them to hospital. I did not go in the van and I am not sure who took over stopping the bleeding from Peter’s head in the van.
About ten days later a friend rang to say that Peter had been on TV, we still did not have electricity then, & would like to see the people who helped him & Dorcas. I was so pleased to hear that Peter was OK that I visited him a couple of times in hospital and corresponded later by email. In August we went to see our daughter in London and travelled up to the border district of Scotland to see Peter & Dorcas who were so pleased to see us and we met their lovely family and stayed the night with them.
We still correspond regularly and count myself lucky to know both Peter & Dorcas even though the meeting was not great.