Ex-All Black, Sky Sport rugby commentator Justin Marshall relives his nightmare experience of the Christchurch earthquake while taking time out with his family in Queenstown
“We got back to Christchurch in June from being away five years, feeling we’d had a great experience away.
“But we were really yearning to get back to New Zealand, and in particular, Christchurch, and settle into NZ life again and get back amongst our family and our friends.
“To have this thrown on its head all of a sudden by what’s happened is really, really unexplainable.
“When the quake struck I was in Auckland with Sky Sport.
“I contacted my wife Nicolle.
“Because of the damage on our hill above Sumner – rocks had fallen on cars and squashed them and the road was pretty damaged – I was worrying about the kids because two of them were in school in Sumner.
“My wife had not long picked up our daughter from kindergarten which was a godsend.
“But she couldn’t get to the other two, she was driving down the hill at the time of the quake and the road started to split.
“I’ve never felt so frustrated and helpless before in my life – it was just an awful feeling.
“Thankfully, [fellow former All Black Scott “Razor” Robertson’s] wife grabbed our kids from school.
“I couldn’t leave Auckland Airport till mid-morning the following day.
“When I arrived at Sumner I saw the absolute mess out there and the big rock that came down on the RSA building.
“The initial prognosis for our house isn’t too bad – the exterior damage isn’t significant enough, I don’t think, for the house to need to be pulled down.
“However, on the inside there’s quite extensive damage.
“All of our belongings have pretty much been destroyed, a lot of the walls, gib-boarding, have been pulled away.
“The TVs are on the ground, the computers all ruined, crockery all gone.
“Chests of drawers, three to four drawers deep, were picked up off the ground and imbedded into the gib-board.
“That’s a decent amount of shaking that’s gone on inside the house.
“I just wanted to get the family out, the children didn’t cope at all with the after-shocks on the Tuesday night, they were pretty upset.
“We told [Scott Robertson’s family of our plans to go to Queenstown], their house is not as damaged but their kids are pretty shaken up so they came down here as well.
“Craig Livingstone at The Point [apartments in Queenstown] has been great, he’s not charging us full rates, they’ve given us toys and DVDs for the kids.
“Sky Sport has been absolutely amazing, getting me out of Auckland.
“They’re saying, ‘look after your family first, worry about your work second’.
“They’re very understanding of the fact we don’t have a home to go to and don’t have a lot of options.
“From what we’ve heard from friends and family back in Sumner, they’re encouraging people to stay away if you’ve already left the suburb because of the danger of falling rocks on the cliffs.
“In the medium- to long-term future, we’ve still got some decisions to make.
“On Friday I’ll do the Crusaders game in Nelson.
“It’s going to be kind of strange.
“Razor and I were saying, we wouldn’t mind playing in it ourselves – to get your emotions out, there’s sometimes nothing better than playing a game of rugby.
“Next week we’re all going to go to Australia, Razor and I have been invited to play in this charity rugby game in Brisbane for the All Black Classics against an Australian Classics side to raise money [for quake victims] – anything you can do, you want to do it.
“It’s a chance for us, since we’ve got no home, to again try to get away from things and get the kids thinking of something else rather than after-shocks and earthquakes.
“Hopefully, in a couple of weeks’ time, things would have cleared up a bit down home and the kids will be starting to forget about things.
“We might be able to start thinking about going back to Christchurch and cleaning up our house.
“It’s a pretty terrible time for Christchurch and it’s a pretty awful time for families and young children.
“It’s just nice to be able come to Queenstown where people are friendly and they want to help, that’s for sure.”