Quake spurs survivor to set up firm

ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY: Wanja, left, and Clemency Mutze are setting up a beauty-based business.
ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY: Wanja, left, and Clemency Mutze are setting up a beauty-based business.

Clemency Mutze says she has had a "seismic shift" in her attitude towards life having survived the collapse of the Canterbury Television building – turning the trauma into inspiration for a new business.

Mutze was on the fifth level of the CTV building so in essence survived a five-storey fall, breaking her back in the process. Now with rods in her body – to be removed in February – she has launched Clemency Alice Beauty.

From the point where she was preparing herself to die on February 22, to launching the beauty and skin care firm has been a long and painful period. A trip back to Cashel Mall at the weekend saw memories come flooding back along with the tears.

She estimates it took 30-40 minutes for rescuers to break through the rubble that had sandwiched her to the chair she was sitting when the quake hit, and took her quickly down with the building – senses heightened. It was only chance she was in the CTV building at 12.51pm waiting for a 1pm appointment. She was in a room with two receptionists and a mother with two children when the shaking started with glass windows shattering and the downward fall.

"At the time I held on to my chair, it was so violent ... I do remember thinking this is it. I saw everything in a slow-motion blur."

She may have lost consciousness before finding herself covered by rubble, and her legs twisted around her chair.

Mutze said the rescue from the devastated building came after her praying aloud and later singing "help me" over and over so she did not lose energy by shouting.

While she initially heard voices, including the woman with two children above her, the building then began to fill with smoke and turn quiet. That's when she thought her life was going to end.

Inspiration from her "practical" brother Tristan, who once told her you could get yourself out of any situation, saw her fight back and eventually make contact with her rescuers, who lifted the broken building off her.

"I think it might have been when they took the chair out when this huge pain just [shooting] up my back ... I looked up and he [her rescuer] said, `right you've got to get out of here'."

After fighting out of the rubble she later spent hours in pain lying on the ground in the "war zone" of Latimer Square waiting for an ambulance that took her to hospital between 6pm-7pm that day.

Memories connected with the day still burn. She later found out a friend, Matthew Beaumont, had died in the CTV building. She and her German-raised husband Wanja Mutze had been introduced by Beaumont who had worked with Wanja's brother at CTV.

Wanja has been working with Clemency to get the sole-trader business up and running. They have spent evenings pondering the right business case and details such as using top quality products for her skin, waxing and facial treatments. She has set up at her home in Whisby Rd, Cashmere, overlooking the city, and is in the process of setting up a Facebook page to help market the self-branded business which she wants to use to help others feel good about themselves.

The inspiration to set up on her own was a direct result of the quakes, and also from an ideas and workbook she had been keeping.

"I started shifting my focus. It's actually really helped my rehabilitation."