Police escalate probe into CTV collapse
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Professionals connected to the CTV building disaster in Christchurch have moved closer to possible manslaughter charges.
Police today said the criminal investigation into the collapse of the building in February 2011 would be advanced.
Detective Superintendent Peter Read said police had considered a ''huge amount of information'' from a range of sources over the last 18 months, including a report from engineering firm Beca on whether standards had been seriously breached.
"Based on this information, we now believe there is sufficient evidence to warrant further criminal investigation into the collapse, '' Read said.
Police had nearly reached the point to ''conclude there was gross negligence'', he said.
''There are still a lot of hurdles to get over. It's still a very complex investigation.... This is very much centered on expert opinion... We got an expert opinion that was in sufficient detail to support the further investigation.''
The inquiry was concentrating on establishing a manslaughter case although criminal nuisance would also be considered.
''We'll let the evidence guide us,'' Read said.
Anyone who gave evidence at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Earthquakes in 2012 could be interviewed in the next phase of the inquiry including Christchurch engineers Alan Reay and David Harding.
The Beca report looked at technical issues in more depth than the commission of inquiry and looked at slightly different aspects, he said. No major differences between the two existed, however.
None of the CTV families nor people mentioned in the report had been shown copies of it, Read said.
Eight police investigators would work fulltime on the inquiry and the next step was further work around witnesses, filling gaps in evidence with information gathered and expert opinion and then assessing the material against the law.
To make up for lack of specialist knowledge, police would have to do ''an awful lot of planning'' before the interviews.
Read gave no definite timeframe for the further investigation. Police would keep all parties informed through the process.
Tim Elms, of Hawarden, whose daughter Teresa McLean, 40, died in the collapse along with 114 people, said he was having ''a big and emotional day'' as a result of the news.
After many knockbacks, relatives of the victims felt as though they would get a fair hearing and were prepared for the long haul.
''Obviously the police think it's worth a full investigation and it will be a major job,'' he said.
''We're just ordinary Joe Blows trying to get some justice. All we want is safer buildings for all New Zealanders,'' he said.
A report by the Royal Commission said structural engineer David Harding, employed by Alan Reay Consulting, designed the CTV building in 1986 but was left largely unsupervised by principal Alan Reay despite Harding's limited experience designing multilevel buildings.
The commissioners found the design had non-complying aspects because Harding was working "beyond his competence" and Reay did not review the design.
"This led to a building design that was deficient in a number of important respects, " the report said.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said she was pleased by the news police were pursuing the investigation further.
"I have met with a number of the families who lost loved ones in the CTV collapse and I know they will welcome that news,'' Dalziel said.
- The Press