Survivors of CTV building collapse give evidence

6:49 am on 27 June 2012

A roofing contractor who was working on the Canterbury Television building when the February 2011 earthquake struck has described how he threw his workmate from the platform they were on, before jumping himself.

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission has resumed its inquiry into the failure of buildings in the Canterbury earthquakes.

This week it began looking into the collapse during the 6.3-magnitude earthquake of the Canterbury Television (CTV) building in which 115 people died.

Leonard Fortune told the commission on Tuesday that he and a workmate were waterproofing the western wall of the CTV building in a scissor lift, when the building started to collapse in front of them.

Mr Fortune picked up his workmate by the tool belt and threw him over the safety barrier to ground, after seeing he was having trouble escaping.

He says he then jumped off himself, seconds before a slab of concrete landed on the lift, bringing it to the ground.

Earlier, a Canterbury Television employee, who was outside the Christchurch building when it collapsed in the February 2011 earthquake, told of seeing its concrete pillars explode as the building fell.

CTV employee Penelope Spencer was leaving the dairy across the road when the earthquake struck.

"The building was swaying back and forth in a north and south direction," Ms Spencer told the commission

"After about 10 seconds it started to collapse. All the glass on every floor on the south side shattered. The concrete pillars then exploded on the fourth floor."

Ms Spencer said the top floor stayed intact until it hit the ground.

Another CTV staff member, Tom Hawker, said he had left the building to buy his lunch from a nearby shop and was crossing the road and about to re-enter his workplace when the earthquake began.

He said the fifth floor of the building caved in first and then each floor collapsed onto the floor below.

A statement from CTV receptionist Maryanne Jackson, who is out of the country, was read to the commisson.

In it, she described running out the front door and across the road before turning around to see the building in a pile of rubble.

Ms Jackson had made a habit of running outside during major aftershocks since the September 2010 quake.

Witness refuses to appear

Commission chairman Justice Mark Cooper says he is disappointed a key witness is refusing to give evidence.

The construction manager during the 1986-87 building of the high-rise was Gerald Shirtcliff.

The commission was told on Monday that Mr Shirtcliff was in Australia and was refusing to provide his address. He had also turned down an offer to appear and answer questions via videolink.

Justice Cooper expressed his displeasure over Mr Shirtcliff's failure to co-operate.

Brian Kennedy, whose wife died in the collapse, says if Mr Shirtcliff oversaw mistakes in the construction of the office block, he should do the right thing and come forward.

As well as investigating the construction of the building and its design, the hearings will cover the initial building consent issued by Christchurch City Council, identification of a structural weakness in 1990, damage suffered in the September 2010 and Boxing Day earthquakes and the assessment process undertaken particularly after the September earthquake.