Police 'not equipped, trained' for CTV disaster
Christchurch Earthquake 2011
Police who attended the Canterbury Television building collapse were not trained or equipped to deal with the severity of the disaster, an inquest has heard.
A coroner's inquest today began hearing evidence into the deaths of Tamara Cvetanova, Jessie Redouble, Emmabelle Anoba, Ezra Medalle, Reah Sumalpong, Rika Hyuga, Chang Lai and Mary Amantillo, who were known to have been alive after the building collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake but were unable to be rescued.
The inquest, which is being streamed live on the Justice Ministry's coronial services unit website, will run for two weeks and reconvene for a final week at the start of December.
Inspector John Price, who was police operations commander immediately after the earthquake, told the inquest that the CTV building was identified as a priority and police were on the scene ''within minutes'' and performing rescues.
It was one of many sites that demanded a police response, he said.
The police's main roles were to control the cordon and manage the sudden process, while the Fire Service took command of the rescue, Price said.
Police who arrived at the CTV site were ''not equipped or trained to deal with such an event''.
''They simply did what was required with what was available to them at the time. The site was extremely dangerous, with a significant risk present," he said.
''The nature of the disaster on that day determined that not all requisite needs of each site could be met. Prioritisation and communication were problems.''
The inquest heard there was no commissioned officer in a supervisory role at the CTV site.
''In an ideal world, it may have been useful to have a commissioned officer there at that site. The reality is we didn't have any commissioned officers available,'' Price said.
In his opening address, counsel assisting Coronial Services Richard Raymond said the inquest's aim was to determine when and where the victims died and the cause and circumstances surrounding their deaths.
''This inquest is not about finger-pointing or apportioning blame,'' he said.
The CTV building suffered a ''catastrophic collapse'', which saw five storeys pancake to about two to three metres and catch fire.
Conditions were extremely difficult and rescuers displayed ''tremendous acts of courage'', Raymond said.
There was ''clear evidence'' at least eight people survived the collapse. Some contacted family members on their cellphones.
''Tragically, they were unable to be rescued,'' Raymond said.
Many of the CTV building victims were foreign-born and there would be widespread international interest in the inquest, he said.
Evidence from 47 witnesses will be heard over three weeks, including first responders from the police and Fire Service, contractors helping to remove rubble, the Defence Force, St John, the Christchurch City Council, family members and international search and rescue experts.
It follows an inquest held last year that looked at the circumstances surrounding the 115 deaths in the building collapse.
This was adjourned in September last year, pending further investigation, but no ruling has yet been released.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Are you happy with progress towards recovery?Related story: September 4: Three year report card