Chch paramedic: 'The memories are still fresh'

Chch paramedic: 'The memories are still fresh'

The memories from that terrible day in Christchurch five years ago are still strong and raw.

For the emergency services it was a haunting time, and for St John in particular.

Newshub spoke with Craig Stockdale, who was in charge of the scene near the CTV site.

"I think the most enduring memories of that day would have to be the smells for starters, a lot of the sensory stuff of the smoke and dust," says Mr Stockdale.

Mr Stockdale was the officer in charge in Latimer Square on February 22, metres from the CTV building, trying to save as many lives as possible.

The 111 calls rolled in, every one of them emergencies.

"In many ways it was almost like it was yesterday," says Alan MacKay, who was working the 111 call centre. "I can close my eyes and picture most things that happened -- maybe not every conversation, maybe not every conversation that was had -- but the memories are still pretty fresh."

As people left the central city, St John headed in, and Latimer Square triage turned into a mortuary.

"I have vivid memories of looking at the victims lying on the grass covered, and I could see all their shoes, and from that I could tell what people did -- what their sex was and what they did for a living, almost -- and I sat there for a long time just taking that in," says Mr Stockdale.

"That is something that has stuck with me, of those people lined up there."

Five years on and 185 chairs sit empty next to the CTV site near Latimer Square, for the 185 lives lost on a day that will always be remembered.

"We can never remember those traumatic feelings," says a paramedic based at Sanitarium Karyn Coker.

"It made us stronger for sure."