Police join forces with Richie McCaw for birthday girl displaced by quake video

IAIN MCGREGOR/Stuff.co.nz

Richie McCaw takes 11-year-old earthquake refugee Stevie Dineen for a helicopter ride.

Eleven-year-old Stevie Dineen​ had no idea why she was at Christchurch Helicopters.

Then a familiar figure rounded the corner and her face lit up. 

"It's Richie McCaw," said her 9-year-old brother Jack, as he clapped his hands together.

Stevie Dineen is hugged by mum Lisa Dineen after her flight with Richie McCaw. Brother Jack Dineen and cousin Reuben ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Stevie Dineen is hugged by mum Lisa Dineen after her flight with Richie McCaw. Brother Jack Dineen and cousin Reuben Holden were on hand to meet their rugby hero.

On Tuesday, Christchurch Helicopters pilot Richie McCaw gave Stevie a belated birthday present, four days after she and her family left their Hapuku home, just north of Kaikoura.

Instead of celebrating her birthday at home on November 25, Stevie and her family were travelling to Christchurch along Inland Rd to escape the quake-hit area. 

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Richie McCaw of Christchurch Helicopters, took 11-year-old Stevie Dineen on a special flight, after the earthquake put a ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Richie McCaw of Christchurch Helicopters, took 11-year-old Stevie Dineen on a special flight, after the earthquake put a dampener on her original birthday plan.

Police Senior Constable Penny Rusbatch​ had visited the family earlier in the week while helping after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on November 14.

When Stevie's younger brother told Rusbatch that his sister was to celebrate her birthday on November 25, the police officer was touched by the way Stevie and her mum, Lisa, looked at each other.

"She said 'with everything that has gone on, we might have to do the celebrations later'. I just got the impression there was not much they could do for her on that day," Rusbatch said.

Police were touched by the plight of the Dineen family, so decided to take action and give 11-year-old Stevie a birthday ...
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Police were touched by the plight of the Dineen family, so decided to take action and give 11-year-old Stevie a birthday surprise.

Stevie told her she wanted to ride in a helicopter. 

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Rusbatch never mentioned her intentions to the family, but decided to try her luck in arranging a helicopter ride with McCaw.

"I just felt really sorry for her because I've got kids. I just wanted to do something special for her because they had a terrible week.

"I know everybody in Kaikoura had been through the same thing but it was just something I wanted to do." 

McCaw and his team at Christchurch Helicopters were only too happy to come to the party. 

Speaking after Stevie's 20-minute flight from Christchurch on Tuesday McCaw said:"I've got to say it's quite satisfying giving people a thrill like that."

The excitement of the day left the youngster a little speechless, but her lasting "big smile" said it all.

"I'll never forget it," Stevie said.

The family were staying with family in Christchurch, and were holding out for Inland Rd to open again so they could return to Dad who stayed behind in Kaikoura.

"There's so many mums and kids and partners trying to get home now . . . it's almost Christmas and partners are still there. It gets a wee bit tiring," Lisa Dineen said.

 - Stuff

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