Remembering Christchurch a decade on: St John paramedic recounts quake aftermath horror

Warning: This article contains graphic detail.

A first responder who witnessed scenes from the 2011 Christchurch earthquake is recounting the horror of the event a decade on. 

The ten-year anniversary of the quake that killed 185 people is being commemorated across the country on Monday.

St John community engagement general manager Craig Stockdale was an operational intensive care paramedic at the time of the quake and was working in a rapid response car on the day.  

He told The AM Show the sights and smells of that day will haunt him forever.

"We set up a temporary mortuary under the trees - just seeing a row of bodies is something that's burnt in my mind."

When the quake struck, he was working at the St John station on St Asaph St in the CBD. Stockdale said everything that followed was tough to comprehend.

The collapsed CTV building.
The collapsed CTV building. Photo credit: Getty

"The first thing that struck me was the dust - the devastation that happened."

Stockdale said many first responders stood up that day.

"Fairly quickly, we pulled together the resources we that needed and then spoke to our coms centre about where we needed to be and where we needed to deploy to," he said. "They had to take each [111] call on its own merits and stack them up, and we had to work through them - the reality of this was we were never going to get to every job that came in that day, and that's where the members of the public and the other services that stood up - absolutely saved lives as well."

St John chief executive Peter Bradley said he's incredibly proud of his team that worked on the day.

Many paramedics had their own homes destroyed in the quake and others had family members injured, he said.

"Our heartfelt thoughts remain with the victims and their families, our people, and our emergency and health services colleagues, and the people of Ōtautahi Christchurch."