CTV rescuers haunted by experience, inquest told

10:21 pm on 30 October 2012

The first police officer at the scene of the CTV building collapse says rescuers will always wonder whether they could have done more to save those trapped under rubble.

Coroner Gordon Matenga is investigating the deaths of people in the central Christchurch building as a result of the February 2011 earthquake, focusing on eight people who initially survived the collapse but later died when rescuers could not reach them.

Sergeant Michael Brooklands told the hearing on Tuesday that rescuers will always be haunted by the experience but believes they did all they could, given the circumstances.

Mr Brooklands said many of those who were first to help did not consider their own safety.

He said when more search and rescue teams arrived the recovery slowed down because it was more safety conscious.

However, another witness, Detective Sergeant Rex Barnett, told the hearing that the officer in charge of the Urban Search and Rescue Team was too concerned with rescuers' safety and efforts were hampered.

Battling fire a dilemma, hearing told

Sergeant Michael Brooklands related how the Fire Service was told to stop trying to put out a blaze in the building for fear of drowning trapped survivors.

Mr Brooklands said dealing with the large fire in the remains of the CTV building after the quake was a catch-22, as drenching the blaze risked drowning people, yet leaving it increased the likelihood of burns or smoke inhalation.

He said he had to ask fire fighters several times to put out one part of the fire where he believed that someone was trapped.

Mr Brooklands recounted pulling bodies out of the rubble that had been affected by the fire, but was not sure whether it was the blaze that killed them.