Emotional end to CTV inquest

Last updated 17:48 06/12/2012
SOME RELIEF: Alec Cvetanov lost his wife in the CTV building.

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A review of the Canterbury Television building collapse aftermath has brought some relief but not closure for families, a victim's widower says.

Alec Cvetanov spoke at the close of the three-week coroner's inquest into the deaths of eight victims who were alive after building collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake, but were not rescued.

His wife, Serbian-born paediatrician Tamara Cvetanova, survived the collapse and contacted her husband on her cellphone to report she had sustained minor injuries and was trapped with at least four others.

Cvetanova, a mother-of-two, was at King's Education on the building's third floor.

She kept in contact with her husband until about 11.30pm, when she turned off her phone to conserve battery power.

They never spoke again.

Cvetanov said yesterday he felt some relief his concerns had been heard.

The Fire Service apology on Tuesday was appreciated, he said.

''There will never be full relief for me and my family and I believe for the other families who have suffered loss in the quake,'' Cvetanov said today.

''I believe raising some issues and questions will help [emergency] services improve for the future and to be better prepared for such events. That was my first aim and it's done now.''

Some questions would ''never be untangled'' because of the complexity of the event, but he said his intention was never to lay blame.

''I would never point [blame], especially to the frontline rescuers involved. I was there personally - you should have seen the [lift] shaft shaking,'' Cvetanov said.

''From the organisational side, I've seen spaces for improvement and believe they will be done in the future.''

In an emotionally-charged final week where Cvetanov and Fire Service senior manager Paul McGill both broke down giving evidence, coroner Gordon Matenga proved he was not immune.

During his closing statement, the coroner choked up and paused to regain his composure when describing how Cvetanov must have felt ''powerless'' to help his trapped wife.

''There are some who feel you may have been too much of an aggravator in this. I don't believe so,'' he said.

''I understand completely the hopelessness you must have felt that night as you clambered over the ruins of that building, knowing that your wife was only metres away from you.''

The coroner hoped the inquest would be viewed as an opportunity to learn from the ''one or two mistakes that have been made, without pointing the finger at anyone in particular''.

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''I agree with the views that have been expressed at various times through the hearing that those who showed up on the day to the CTV and others sites around Christchurch and did the best that they could in very trying circumstances,'' he said.

The coroner reserved his decision.

- The Press


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