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Family's agony as Irish victim found in NZ quake ruins

A family have spoken of their heartbreak after the body of an Irishman was discovered in the earthquake rubble of Christ-church.

JJ O'Connor (40), a native of Lisereen, Abbeydorney, Co Kerry, had been missing since the 6.3 magnitude quake hit New Zealand's second-biggest city on February 22.

The father of one was working on the first floor of the Pyne Gould Guinness building at lunchtime when it collapsed.

Mr O'Connor's distraught wife Sarah, who was born in New Zealand, was asked to identify his body after it was found under the rubble.

In the last fortnight, she had clung to the hope that he might be found alive and had been keeping a vigil beside the remains of the building.

She is expecting the couple's second child in May -- they were already parents to a son, two-year old Daniel.

"The police in Christchurch arrived at Sarah's door yesterday morning to tell her they had found JJ's body," said JJ's uncle Dennis from Abbeydorney.

"She is naturally devastated. At least the waiting is over as that was almost the hardest part. But he had a young family and a lot to live for, it is terrible how fate works."

Sarah rang her husband's mother Sheila, his brothers and sisters early yesterday morning to tell them the tragic news.

"It has stopped the waiting and the wondering, but the family is shattered and heartbroken," Dennis added last night.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was assisting Mr O'Connor's family in bringing his body home for the funeral.



Lovely

Mr O'Connor and his wife only moved to New Zealand from London with their son last September. He had studied accountancy in Ireland after completing his Leaving Cert. He then emigrated to England, where he met Sarah.

He was known as a "lovely fellow" and a keen GAA football player.

The earthquake has claimed 166 lives so far but the final death toll is expected to rise above 200.

Mr O'Connor was the second Irish person to be confirmed dead from the natural disaster.

Psychiatric nurse Owen McKenna (41), from Brackagh, Emyvale, Co Monaghan, had been living in New Zealand with his wife Sarah and two children for a number of years.

He died after his car was crushed by falling debris.

hnews@herald.ie