Man who saved sister to be honoured

Man who died saving sister to be honoured

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 14:11 11/12/2012
Natalie O'Brien and Jaime Gilbert
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HEARTBROKEN: Natalie O'Brien with her partner Jaime Gilbert.
Christchurch earthquake victim Jaime Gilbert's funeral
CRAIG SIMCOX/Dominion Post
LAST ACT: Pallbearers carry quake victim Jaime Gilbert's casket, including his sister Amy Cooney, right.

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An earthquake award ceremony will be ''bittersweet'' for the family of a man who died saving his sister from falling masonry.

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

The father of two will be posthumously honoured in the final Christchurch earthquake awards, which will be presented by Mayor Bob Parker at a ceremony next Tuesday.

Cooney, who will accept the award on Gilbert's behalf, along with his children, aged 4 and 2, nominated her brother.

She also nominated award recipient Sam Siave, who worked at the bar with Gilbert, for pulling the pair free from the rubble.

Cooney said she always told Gilbert's children he was her hero and likened him to Spider-Man and Batman.

''I especially wanted him to be officially noticed for what he did in the earthquake, for the benefit of his son and daughter,'' Cooney said.

''It's just making sure it's officially part of history, that final stamp. What we think is one thing; having it recognised publicly is making it more concrete in your head.

''It's not just a family story; it's a New Zealand story, especially a Christchurch one.'' 

Cooney's father, Robert Gilbert, expected the presentation would be ''bittersweet'' for the family.

''We go through a mixture of emotions. He left behind two little kids. It's clear they'll know that their dad was a hero, but part of you wishes they had a daddy to hug rather than a medal,'' he said.

Gilbert admired the council for setting up the awards to acknowledge not only those who died but those who did ''extraordinary things on an extraordinary day''.

''There's plenty of unsung heroes, and our community owes a debt to you, and thank you,'' he said.

''On this occasion, Jamie was one of a number of people. We feel like standing up with the rest of the community and saying thank you as well.''

Gilbert said the family would try to look at the ceremony as a ''celebration''.

''Jamie would never under any circumstances have seen himself as a hero, but everyone who knew him knew he was a special guy,'' he said.

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- The Press

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