Husband's quest for answers over

Last updated 06:00 31/03/2014
Fairfax NZ

Nigel Hampton, QC, and Alec Cvetanov during a press conference talking about the release of the coroner's report into the collapse of the CTV building during the Feb22 earthquake. Alec's wife, Tamara Cvetanova, was among those killed.

Chang Li
Chang Lai was killed when the CTV building collapsed in February 2011.
Alec Cvetanov
ALEC CVETANOV: 'There are things that I'm not happy with, but for me personally it's the end. I want to go back to my kids . . . I believe in the saying that time heals.'
Dr Tamara Cvetanova
DR TAMARA CVETANOVA: Trapped 12 hours before her death.
CTV building
CTV BUILDING: Dr Tamara Cvetanova and four other women survived for 12 hours after the building's collapse.

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Alec Cvetanov believes his wife would still be alive if the NZ Fire Service's response to the Christchurch earthquake had been more co-ordinated and organised.

Flanked by his lawyer, Nigel Hampton QC, Cvetanov told a press conference yesterday that he respected Coroner Gordon Matenga's findings but disagreed with the conclusion that the search and rescue effort did not contribute to deaths at the collapsed CTV building on February 22, 2011.

People trapped in the rubble were killed because of failures at the site, Cvetanov said.

However, his quest for answers was over.

"Illogical or not . . . I respect the conclusion of the coroner.

"There are things that I'm not happy with, but for me personally it's the end. I want to go back to my kids . . . I believe in the saying that time heals."

His wife, Dr Tamara Cvetanova, 42, was studying English at the King's Education language school on the third floor of the CTV building when the quake struck.

The Serbian-born paediatrician survived the collapse and was still alive at 12.50am on February 23. In his findings, the coroner ruled she died of massive crush injuries.

Cvetanov campaigned unsuccessfully for the post-quake search and rescue efforts to be scrutinised by the Canterbury earthquakes royal commission, instead of the coroner.

At the inquest hearing, he suggested the use of a digger to remove debris had caused a collapse which killed his wife.

The Fire Service, police and Urban Search and Rescue had been slow to respond to alerts of her predicament, were poorly equipped and communication and leadership was lacking, Cvetanov said.

Matenga said so much was going on at the site, no particular movement could be held responsible for a possible collapse.

He was satisfied rescuers knew Cvetanova was alive and were doing what could reasonably be done.

Hampton was scathing in his assessment of the Fire Service.

"To give an answer that we [the Fire Service] were overwhelmed, particularly by executive officers, is not a satisfactory response.

"You're trained to impose order within chaos and that's what was sadly lacking on that day in CTV.

"People on the ground did superb work - did everything possible within their constrictions to get out trapped people.

"Where they were let down . . . was in the structure above them.

"Why would 13 executive officers not impose an incident control point at the site? Why would you not want to play in the game that you've trained for all your life? Why would you go missing?" Fundamental changes to the ethos and philosophy of emergency services were required, Hampton said.

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"They've got to learn to work together."

Cvetanov's "dogged determination" in attempting to unravel what went on in the hours after the earthquake was "quite an extraordinary fight", he said.

- The Press

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