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Official quake toll rises to 184

Published: 6:30AM Saturday February 04, 2012 Source: Fairfax

A Christchurch grandmother, Elizabeth Sinclair, has been classified as a victim of last February's earthquake even though she died more than two weeks later.

Sinclair, 76, Pamela Christina Barkle, 72, and Reta Stewart, 81, were added to the official list of quake victims yesterday, taking the toll to 184.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean found 181 people were killed as a direct result of the quake.

Five additional deaths were referred to the coroner as they were believed to be quake-related, and the deaths of the three women have been found to be directly associated.

Sinclair died in Christchurch Hospital on March 9. She fractured her hip after losing her balance at her Mairehau home.

After surgery she contracted pneumonia, from which she never recovered.

Barkle, of Burwood, was thrown from a stool when the quake struck.

She later experienced pain and was taken to an after-hours medical centre, where it was found she had popped a rib and pulled a muscle.

Two days later, Barkle was asleep in her lounge when her husband heard her stop breathing.

Coroner Gordon Matenga said Barkle died of a "ruptured heart" caused by the fall.

Stewart suffered head injuries and a broken hip after being thrown to the ground at the Windermere Rest Home. She died in Christchurch Hospital the next day.

Ivan Sinclair, 81, was with his wife of 58 years when she fell when the quake struck.

"We didn't know at the time [how bad it was]. She was pretty crocked, so we put her inside on the couch," he said.

The next morning, Elizabeth, who Ivan affectionately called "Mum", was in serious pain and her family took her to the 24 Hour Surgery in Bealey Avenue before she went to Christchurch Hospital.

While there she told a Press reporter: "I ran for the clothesline and tried to hang on, but I never made it. It just threw me."

Ivan Sinclair said yesterday's announcement did not mean much.

"It means if there hadn't been a bloody earthquake she might not be dead. That's all," he said.

"I'm missing her a hell of a lot because she was marvellous. But if she wasn't there [in the list], I wouldn't be upset."

The year had been horrific for the Sinclair family.

One of Elizabeth's four sons, John, died in October after a battle with cancer.

"I reckon that would have killed her if she'd been here anyways. It bloody near killed me," Sinclair said.

He described his wife, who worked at Lane Walker Rudkin, as a "brilliant sewer" who could turn her hand to anything.

She liked gardening, music, making children's dolls, tracing her family heritage and dancing.

Sinclair and his sons were still clearing out his home, which was full of his wife's possessions.

"When Mum went, I didn't let things go, but I didn't get as much done as I wanted to get done."

He began to cry as he described what he missed most about his wife.

"It's going to get a bit tough now ... I miss everything. You go to pick something up and it's hers.

"Fifty-eight years is a bloody long time together."

Ivan Barkle said his wife Pam was sitting at the kitchen counter when the quake struck.

He found her lying on the floor, on the other side of the counter.

Later that night she complained of pain in her chest, back and arm. "At 9 o'clock I said I'm getting the ambulance."

The ambulance arrived two hours later and was unable to take her to Christchurch Hospital.

She was taken instead to the 24 Hour Surgery in Bealey Avenue, where a doctor told her she had popped a rib and gave her two tablets. When they did not work he gave her an injection, and she was sent home at 3.15am to make room for other patients.

She spent the next two days on a chair in the lounge because she was unable to lie down. Her husband slept nearby. "I wouldn't move away from her," he said.