CTV victims' families query apology motive

MARC GREENHILL AND CAROLINE KING
Last updated 05:00 08/08/2012

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The boss of the company that designed the Canterbury Television (CTV) building may have apologised for its collapse only because he was "cornered", families of the victims say.

Alan Reay, principal of Alan Reay Consultants, yesterday told the Canterbury earthquakes royal commission into the collapse, which killed 115 people on February 22 last year, was a "terrible tragedy".

The building did not meet his standard, he said.

"I really feel for those who have lost their loved ones.

"To the extent that I can, I have tried to provide the commission with assistance to understand the cause of this tragedy. I've spent my life working in engineering and have always tried to maintain the highest standards of the profession. I apologise to all the families affected as this building did not meet my standards."

Speaking to The Press, Murray Grant, who lost his wife, Elizabeth Jane Grant in the building , said the apology was "better than nothing".

However, he questioned how sincere it was.

"It's been tough going getting him to say it. They've had him on the stand a couple of times already.

"I suppose they've cornered him a wee bit, and he had to admit some of it.

"He read it off a piece of paper . . . It's almost like someone told him to do it. I think he should've said it a lot earlier," Grant said.

The commission appeared to have become "a bit of a blame game", he said.

"He [Reay] said he had nothing to do with it, that David Harding designed it.

"I do find it hard to believe that Alan Reay had as little to do with it as what he said he did."

Yesterday, Reay, appearing before the commission for the third time, said he had had “little to do” with CTV building design, developed by David Harding, and did not run other engineers' projects.

Brian Kennedy, who lost his wife, Beverley Faye Kennedy, in the CTV building, said Reay's apology was "a start".

"Alan Reay has put across an arrogance in the past, at least an apology is a start. There's more people that can follow the lead, that would be nice. It's not all Alan Reay's fault."

Kennedy said the apology, which seemed sincere, offered him "a wee bit" of comfort.

"I just hope he hasn't said it as perhaps he sees himself as being pushed into a corner by the council."

During yesterday's hearing, counsel assisting the commission, Mark Zarifeh, asked Reay if his standards included best practice and code compliance.

Reay said he was “not necessarily” talking about code compliance.

“The building could well be code compliant or it may have some elements that aren't. I'm saying that, by my standards, it didn't meet them,” he said.

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If an error occurred, responsibility lay with his company, Reay said.

He was satisfied after speaking with Harding that the sheer wall calculations were correct.

Zarifeh questioned why Reay took Harding's word that the CTV shear wall was satisfactory, as Harding had never been the lead designer on a multi-level building before.

The detailed calculations were Harding's responsibility, Reay said.

He had trusted Harding to undertake the work, he said.

- Canterbury

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