Kids accept posthumous award for brave dad

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2012
Jaime Gilbert’s son Levi and daughter India receive his award from Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

HERO DAD: The late Jaime Gilbert’s son Levi and daughter India receive his award from Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker. With them is Gilbert’s sister Amy Cooney, whom he was awarded for saving.

SHIELDED SISTER: Jaime Gilbert, who died beneath rubble in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.
SHIELDED SISTER: Jaime Gilbert, who died beneath rubble in the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

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Levi Gilbert knows his dad was a hero.

Last night Levi, 4, and sister India, 2, received a posthumous Christchurch Earthquake Award on behalf of their father, Jaime Gilbert.

Gilbert used his body to shield sister Amy Cooney as the pair fled from the collapsing Iconic Bar on Manchester St during the February 2011 quake.

He died, hand in hand with Cooney, beneath the rubble.

Levi excitedly explained he was getting a medal "because my dad's a hero" who saved his aunt's life.

Cooney said the award "solidified what we all know as a family."

The trio, who attended with Gilbert's partner, Natalie O'Brien, were met with cheers and thunderous applause as they walked on stage at the Christ's College auditorium last night, to accept the award from Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker.

It was the second round of Earthquake Awards, to honour 172 people who undertook acts of kindness, service or heroism during the quakes.

Cooney nominated one of the other recipients, Sam Siave.

It was Siave who heard her beneath the rubble and sparked the rescue effort, pulling her free of the wrecked building.

"I could have nominated a million people but Sam stood out," she said. "If he had not heard my voice beneath the rubble then nobody would have found us at all."

It has been almost two years since Cooney lost her brother but feels she is now healing.

She planned to leave the city after the quake and had even put her house on the market but stayed for her children, now 6, 10 and 14.

"I wanted to teach my children resilience, to face their fears. I had to be an example to them.

"At first I felt Christchurch had taken something so precious. Now I feel I love Christchurch more than ever."

A posthumous award was also presented to the family of Owen Morris Wright, who died in an aftershock on the Major Hornbrook Track after helping people over the hill to Lyttelton.

John Haynes and lawyer Grant Cameron were also honoured for rescuing 14 people from the damaged Forsyth Barr building on the day of the quake.

For the full list of earthquake award recipients, click here.

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