Evidence painful for families of CTV dead

Last updated 07:50 01/07/2012

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Some families who lost loved ones in the collapse of Christchurch's CTV building have sat through the royal commission hearings, but for others the memories are still too raw. Olivia Carville reports.

Seeing hundreds of photographs of the smouldering rubble of the Canterbury Television building and hearing hours of first-hand accounts from those who escaped its collapse was too harrowing for a number of grieving families.

The collapse of Christchurch's CTV building on February 22 last year killed 115 people.

It was the deadliest site in the city. The dead included 16 CTV employees, 19 patients and staff members from a medical practice and 71 foreign students. The Canterbury earthquakes royal commission of inquiry into the failure of the building is one week into a scheduled eight-week hearing.

It has heard evidence from eyewitnesses who watched the building fall, those who searched for survivors and inspectors who had declared the building safe to occupy.

Daily media coverage has thrown some family members straight back into the dark days of the quake's aftermath.

Fran Brookbanks lost her 25-year-old son Rhys in the disaster and said she had tried to avoid the hearings and ignore the coverage.

Attending would be "far too difficult and confronting", and she had chosen not to use the live online stream, watch any television reports or listen to radio news bulletins.

"For us, it's the same as waiting for Rhys to be found. It took a month and there were so many conflicting media reports. One minute our hopes were up and the next minute they were down," she said.

"I find us emotionally back in that month now. We have knots in our stomachs, pain in our hearts and lumps in our throats yet again."

Rhys Brookbanks was a reporter for CTV and planned to marry his fiancee in November 2011. His mother had often wondered if it was better not knowing the reasons why the building crumbled.

The family of 38-year-old Amanda Uriao have made a similar choice.

"Our family has decided we have been through enough so we are not going at all. None of us," her father, Brian Walker, said.

"We have suffered enough without going along there and suffering even more."

Amanda Uriao was a mother-of- two and had worked as a saleswoman for CTV.

The past 16 months had been "basically like a big, bad dream" for Walker, who said the pain of losing his daughter had never faded.

Listening to evidence and reports over what may have caused the building to fall would be "like going through agony every day".

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"We know what's happened and we can't change anything. I've lost my daughter and that's the end of the story."

Widow Maree Lucas chose to attend the first day of the hearing but felt it was "five steps forward and three steps back" for her emotionally.

"It's hard enough trying to deal with your own grief and problems without having to sit through all that. It just brought it all back for me," she said.

The mother-of-two had been married to CTV production manager Shawn Lucas for 18 years.

Pedro Carazo lost his house, his restaurant and his 35-year-old son Cristiano Carazo-Chandler, an English teacher at King's Education on the third floor of the CTV building, in the earthquake.

He had contemplated attending the hearing but felt he would not be able to cope.

"It was too much. My body's just not well and my mind too. We lost so much and I can't take it," he said.

Carazo said he had "not stopped shaking" since his son died.

Grieving father David Beaumont found sitting through one day of the inquiry too harrowing to return.

"The things that are being revealed are most upsetting. There were faults with the design and the construction, but legal action now will make no difference to the past," he said.

Beaumont lost his 31-year-old adopted son, Matthew Beaumont, who had been a familiar face on Canterbury Television and had hosted a number of different programmes.

"I will be glad when this seven weeks is over. I don't want to go through it again. We will never forget, but just don't want his death to be so prominent in our lives," he said.

- Sunday Star Times

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