Student 'squashed like a pancake'

6:41 pm on 8 March 2016

A student crushed by the falling balcony in Dunedin on Friday says he was squashed like a pancake and his body is now full of metal.

George Karamaena

George Karamaena Photo: FACEBOOK

George Karamaena broke his lower back, but is expected to eventually walk again. He will use a wheelchair in the meantime.

The Fine Arts' student from Southland, who's also a talented rugby player, had an operation on his legs at the weekend, and his back yesterday.

Mr Karamaena says the balcony was fully packed with people dancing at one stage before it toppled.

Radio New Zealand has seen video footage minutes before the collapse which shows at least 16 people on the balcony standing and watching the band.

He says he remembers hearing it crack, and then seeing his own feet up at either side of his head.

His body is now full of metal.

"There was just a loud noise of cracking and we looked up and the deck was just falling from about three metres high and it came straight down on my shoulders and I folded flat. I just went squash like a pancake," he told Checkpoint with John Campbell.

"All I remember is looking to my left and I saw my foot on my left side of my face and my other foot on the right hand side of my face. I didn't get knocked out - I can remember everything."

The scene of the balcony collapse off Castle Street in Dunedin on Friday 4 March 2016.

The scene of the balcony collapse off Castle Street in Dunedin on Friday 4 March. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

People lifted the deck off him and placed him in the recovery position.

He remembers being shocked by all the injured people around him, before looking down at his own body.

A fibula and femur were snapped, and the lower vertebrae in his back broke.

"I was in a world of pain, but in a lot more shock than pain."

Bailley Unahi, third from left, with her siblings.

Bailley Unahi, third from left, with her siblings. Photo: SUPPLIED

Bailley Unahi, 19, was also injured when the balcony collapsed.

Her family said she suffered several fractures to her spine and broken ribs.

Ms Unahi, who studies Science at Otago University, had an operation on her back on Saturday and is currently in Burwood Hospital in Christchurch.

A family spokesperson says it is an incredibly stressful time for her family, who are still trying to come to terms with what happened.

Ms Unahi is awake and talking but still in a serious condition.

A donation page on the website Givealittle has already raised more than $19,000 from 375 donors.

The balcony injured six people when it collapsed.

The balcony injured six people when it collapsed. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

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