Police decide against charges over Southern Ink and Riccarton Rd earthquake deaths

Last updated 18:41 15/06/2017

The facade of the second-hand bookshop in Riccarton Rd crumbled onto the street, killing bricklayer Ross Bush.

Ross Bush's family are "really disappointed" no charges will be laid over his death.
Matti McEachen died trying to escape the tattoo parlour he worked in, Southern Ink.
Linda Arnold died on Lichfield St after a concrete panel fell off the Ballantynes car park building.

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Police will not lay charges in connection with one of four sites under investigation over Christchurch earthquake deaths.

Ross Bush died when the vehicle he was sitting in was crushed by debris from St Christopher's Book Market on Riccarton Rd in the February 2011 earthquake. The building's yellow placard was changed to green after the September 2010 earthquake by an engineer who did not go inside as part of his inspection.

The Canterbury Earthquake Royal Commission found the inspection "insufficient" and said the downgrade to a safer status should not have been approved by the Christchurch City Council.

Detective Inspector Darryl Sweeney said police sought advice from engineering experts before deciding not to proceed.

"It didn't meet the standard for criminal charges."

* Devastated families want someone held accountable for Christchurch quake deaths
* Tattooist dies after placard confusion
* Inspections of Riccarton Rd building 'inadequate'
* Engineer breaks down, accepts blame
* CTV: 115

Bush's son-in-law, David Stanley, said the family was "really disappointed" by the decision.

"You look and say, 'Was an honest mistake made?' I don't think so. You trust engineers to do their job just the same as you trust people doing warrants of fitness to do their job.

"I'd like to see this case in court. And examined by a judge and jury to decide, 'Is this right?' Otherwise it's just walked away and we're supposed to just suck it up."

Sweeney said police were also unlikely to lay charges over the Southern Ink building, where tattooist Matti McEachen was killed by falling rubble. It was awaiting a final opinion from the Crown.

"Our view is that we don't believe we can prosecute in that case but we're just waiting for that to be formalised."

The building had several tenancies, which received a mix of green and yellow placards after the 2010 earthquake. Southern Ink appeared to be subject to a yellow placard, meaning repairs were required to make it safe to occupy, but the tenants were never told. The royal commission lamented a "breakdown in communication".

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"While the various parties have given explanations for the continued occupation of a building that had been assigned a yellow placard, this will afford little comfort to the family of Matthew McEachen.

"McEachen's father Bruce McEachen said he was "absolutely gutted" by the decision.

"I struggle to see why they can't prosecute. The amount of public interest in this case is huge . . . To find that the answer is we're a little bit scared of not winning? Nobody ever knows when they go to court if they're going to win or they're going to lose."

Police were still considering charges over the Ballantynes car park building and were meeting an engineer in the coming weeks, Sweeney said.

Linda Arnold was sitting in her car on Lichfield St when she was killed by a falling concrete panel from the building. The structural engineer who approved its design has admitted the panel was not properly attached. A decision in the case was "imminent", Sweeney said.

"We can see what the decision would be but it's just got to go through the process."

The police report on the CTV building, where 115 people were killed, was still with the Crown solicitors.

Detective Superintendent Peter Read said the case would go to Crown Law next – a relatively short step. He hoped a decision would be made this month.

- Stuff

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