Inspections of Riccarton Rd building 'inadequate'

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2012
Scene
CHRIS HILLOCK/Waikato Times
CRUMBLED: The crumbled facade of the second-hand bookshop on Riccarton Rd that killed bricklayer Ross Bush, 75.
Ross Bush
GONE: Semi-retired bricklayer Ross Bush, 75, died in the February 22, 2011 earthquake.

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Inspections that led to a Christchurch building reopening before its facade collapsed, killing a man, were insufficient and "made a nonsense" of post-earthquake placarding procedures.

Ross Bush, 75, died in Riccarton Rd on February 22, 2011, when the facade of a secondhand bookshop collapsed on him while he ate lunch in his car parked on the roadside.

Despite having cracks in the facade, the building was green-stickered - deemed safe to occupy - after an external assessment two days after the September 2010 quake.

The Christchurch City Council gave the building a yellow sticker, meaning it should not be occupied, on September 11 after a call from the tenant, but it was later downgraded to green after a third inspection by structural engineer David Elliott.

Elliott did not re-enter the building on the second and third in spections, as required by the council when considering downgrading a building's placard status, because he was confident there had been no structural changes.

The earthquakes inquiry found Elliott's third check was insufficient, and an internal inspection was "clearly called for".

The amended engineer's certificate should not have been accepted, "made a nonsense" of the council's change of placard policy and created "ambiguity".

"In effect, the yellow placard was simply put to one side as a result of the combined actions of Mr Elliott and the [council], without the relevant matters being given proper consideration," the royal commission said.

Elliott said in evidence at the hearing he was concerned that it was inappropriate for him to sign the form because no securing work had been done, but recalled the council officer telling him he should modify the form as he saw fit.

Cracks in the building were visible from the exterior and would not have been visible from the interior, Elliott told the commission.

Council resource consents and building policy manager Steve McCarthy did not believe the criticism was valid.

"We accepted [the certificate] at the time in good faith and believed that it complied with our policy," he said.

Bush's son-in-law, David Stanley, told The Press his family was grateful the commission "got to the bottom" of reasons for the collapse.

However, the "lackadaisical" approach to the safety of people in and around the building and the apparent rush to reopen the bookshop was "horrifying".

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"If the recommendations were followed, that building would have been propped up and strengthened and barricades would have stopped people parking underneath it."

- The Press

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