Facebook fans helps find quake hero IncrediBro Hulk #eqnz

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The images and videos which flooded in, of so many kind souls, complete strangers helping those who lay injured, those who lay dying, instantly touched our hearts. Theterror, the panic that hit as a result of theChristchurch earthquake which rumbled through the city on 22 February 2011 at12.59pm wasso real, so evident, thateven those who were not there, who simply watched as the images streamedinto our homes, felt the horror of it all deep in our bones.

The most recent amateur cellphone footageto emerge wastaken by two womenrunning from thedevastation, it chronicled the seconds, the minutes directly after thequake.

What was clear from the footage, was how easy it would have been to kick into survival mode, to run, to get out of the danger zone, or to simply stand by, a witness to what had happened, unable to act at all.

So, it was the urgency and strength of one man, in particular that touched those watching these images and instantly caught our attention.

Maybe it was because his actions captured how we hope we might have acted had we been there. Or maybe it was because his adrenaline boosted strength allowed him to toss heavy slabs of concrete aroundlike they were “feathers”.

In Australia, Sydney paper the Daily Telegraph has said despite the city-smashing quake New Zealands character remains undimmed.

The paper went on to single out a snatch of television footage which was then beamed around the world which showed a Maori man flinging himself into battle against a huge pile of concrete blocking the entrance to a shattered building.

He threw massive chunks aside as though they were feathers.

One online commentator explained why it was this image that resonated with her:

“yes there are MANY “heroes” that will come out of this dark time, however, the image of this man will be permanently etched in my memory. His total lack of regard for his own safety and his selfless attitude in helping another human being in need is a lesson we can all learn from.”

Facebook was buzzing with talk about the man, everyone wanting to find out who this hero was. A Facebook page called The Awesome Maori Guy IncrediBro Hulk was then set up in his honor, attracting over 3,000 fans in 3days with everyone wanting to know who he was, even The Stuff and ZM were asking their readers and listeners to help identify the man.

As it turned out, the man was not Maori, TangataWhenua.com named the man as Sam Siave, a Samoan man from Christchurch. It was Sam, who had helped to pull his workmate, Jamie Gilbert and his sister Amy from the rubble, the two had been working at the Iconic Bar on Manchester Street, when the quake hit. Amy survived but sadly, her brother,Jamie did not…

However, the man in the photos was not Sam Siave after all, one of our readers contacted us saying Sam had got in touch with the creators of the FB group, saying it wasn’t him but gave some insight into the man’s actions:

“He was truly awesome, saw what was happening and without prompting he jumped in and got involved. I was there, I was talking to both Amy and Jamie and shifting rubble out of the way but this guy certainly made a massive difference when he pitched in. I’m sure everyone will agree that he deserves a medal. …On behalf of Amy and Jamies family, THANK YOU.”

Ahsei Ace Sopoaga | the “Super Samoan”

Finally through the same Facebook group,the man’s son posted a comment, saying,”Hes my dad, im ace sopoaga junior and im real proud and so glad too see my dad helpng out like he always has, and thankful that he isnt hurt, i love you dad and i hope your okay down there in christchurch x” another relation wrote saying “His name is AhSei “Ace” Sopoaga & he’s a true humble guy who would do anything for anyone & He’s a Samoan Hero!!

They referred to him on the internet as “New Zealand’s superman”, the “human digger”, and a “true Kiwi hero”. But no one knew who he was.

As the days went by, his actions after Tuesday’s quake flinging huge concrete blocks around like they were polystyrene took on cult status, and a Facebook page in his honour christened him “the Incredibro Hulk”.

Ahsei played down his actions telling the Sunday-Star Times, “It was just some things that were on top of him and had to be removed,” he tells the Star-Times yesterday. “I’m really not sure how heavy it was.”

They came to the corner of Manchester and Gloucester Sts and saw some people crowded around rubble, trying to get to a trapped man.

“I saw some of them struggling to get a couple of the big blocks off,” Ashei says. “Not many people came and helped so I just had to get in there. I just instinctively got in there and pulled those out. I was concerned about the guy because his sister was yelling out for him.” Suzanne says an aftershock hit, sending most of the rescuers scrambling for cover, but her husband ran back in.

“A police officer was yelling out ‘he’s still got a pulse, he’s still got a pulse’. Ashei ran back in after the aftershock hit. I’m screaming from the sideline, telling him to come back.

“I thought the building could come down at any time. I had three kids to get back to an hour’s drive from town.”

Ace’s wife also made comment – paying tribute to the life lost:

IN DEDICATION OF JAMIE GILBERT: on behalf of my hubby and our family we give our sincere condolences to Jamies mediate family and friends. We never got the chance to know you or your lovely family but on that day you became a part us. we will never forget you…. R.I.P.
With love.

Finally it was the words of a Facebook user, Jacob Perry, that best explains our admiration of AhSei:

In times of chaos and disaster it is a welcome relief that we can look to someone and their deed and say “thanks bro” and maybe even hoped we would have done the same thing. Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Pakeha… we are all the same under our skins, he is my brother and I salute him…”

5 COMMENTS

  1. Its stories like this that make me so proud to be from New Zealand..Our spirits shine even at a dark hour like this! Even when we are in the midst of what can only feel like hell we stand together as one!

    Your actions are beyond heroic Ace!..And we as New Zealanders are proud to call you one of our own. I have never met you or your family but when i saw you on the news and in the papers my heart shone. You deserve every bit of attention and respect you get!! Sending you and your family all my love!.

    "Aotearoa Born and Bred" 🙂 ? xo

  2. I hope i grabbed as much RESPECT ,ATTENTION, AS POSSIBLE:)

    sole… You are beyond true words that others see and feel about you:)

    HUG … MUCH LOVE .. Good work

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