Quake evacuee finds his rotting fish - but not where he thought he left it

Pete McDonald was certain he had left a kilogram of snapper and cod out defrosting in his kitchen the day his apartment ...
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Pete McDonald was certain he had left a kilogram of snapper and cod out defrosting in his kitchen the day his apartment was evacuated. But there's been a happy ending of sorts.

Who hasn't rushed home, certain they have left the oven on? 

Pete McDonald's dilemma was a kilogram of raw fish, left defrosting on the kitchen bench in his apartment in Tory St, Wellington, the day the building was evacuated.

On November 17, three days after the Kaikoura earthquake, his building was evacuated at short notice because of fears that the nearby Reading car park could collapse.

Apartment complex evacuee Pete McDonald feared he had left defrosting fish out on the bench when he was barred from ...
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ.

Apartment complex evacuee Pete McDonald feared he had left defrosting fish out on the bench when he was barred from re-entering his place next to the quake-damaged Reading Cinema car park.

As summer began, he learned he was unlikely to be able to get back into his apartment – and to deal with his smelly fish – until the car park had been torn down, which might not be until March.

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McDonald was left to imagine, with every passing week since, a fishy stench permeating his curtains, carpets, clothing, and furniture.

Reading car park's demolition is expected to take until March to complete.
MAATREN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Reading car park's demolition is expected to take until March to complete.

His plight had given him minor urban legend status since the quake, earning him a new nickname as Mr Fish.

McDonald said he had been stopped by strangers in the supermarket who saw him in the news, wanting to know if he'd managed to get back into his apartment yet.

McDonald was among hundreds allowed back into their homes and businesses around the city on December 21, for a 20-minute grab and dash, and the fish stench was top of his mind.

Reading Cinema car park demolition site manager Phil Becker said he heard an Urban Search and Rescue crewman had triple-gloved his hands as he accompanied McDonald in. 

But there was a surprise waiting indoors: "I got to the door and thought, man, I should've been smelling it halfway down the hallway," McDonald said.

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They eventually found the fish, not on the bench but in a beer fridge, its stink contained because the power had been left on. "It was a hallelujah moment, really."

McDonald said thawing meals in his smaller fridge was not something he'd done before. "It's actually a very strange place to have put my fish, as there's usually nothing in there but beer."

The vegetables rotting in his main fridge had fared worse over the five weeks. "It was just liquid green stench, it was just disgusting."

The USAR crewman bagged the rotten fish and they left the apartment. 

McDonald is unlikely to return until March, when the first thing he plans to do is to grab the beer fridge unopened, toss it on to the back of his ute and drive it straight to the tip.

Becker said there had been no official entries into McDonald's apartment logged since the original evacuation, either by Wellington City Council staff, USAR or engineers.

McDonald said only a handful of people had keys, and thought it was most likely he'd defrosted the fish in the beer fridge then forgotten he'd done it.

"I'm not sure if I'm losing my marbles or having my senior moment."

But it was possible some mystery saviour had seen his plight in the news, sneaked in and refrigerated the fish for him, in which case he was grateful. "If there's some good fairy out there who did something, that'd be great."

 - Stuff

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