Full post-mortems 'not possible' on CTV victims

Updated at 9:54 pm on 5 December 2012

An inquest into the collapse of the CTV building has been told proper post-mortems were not carried out on the 115 people who died and the exact cause and timing of their deaths may never be known.

The hearing is examining the deaths of eight people who initially survived the collapse of the building in an earthquake on 22 February last year in central Christchurch and the role of those trying to save them.

On Wednesday, the inquest was told that Tamara Cvetanova died as a result of being crushed by rubble, although she was alive in a cavity for at least 12 hours after the collapse.

Evidence has already been heard about concerns that trapped people might be crushed when diggers were used to drag concrete on top of them away. Whether this happened to Mrs Cvetanova has never been established.

Forensic pathologist Martin Sage saidthe scale of the CTV disaster meant that full post-mortems were not possible.

An army doctor told the hearing there was a lack of good information on where people were trapped after the quake and where the rescue effort should be focused.

Major Charmaine Tate, who worked for Urban Search and Rescue following the quake said a decision was taken to withdraw USAR workers from the CTV building the day after the quake, because there was a possibility people were trapped in other locations, including at ChristChurch Cathedral.

She said unlike the rescue at the PGC building, no floor plan was drawn up of the CTV building, indicating the likely location of survivors.

Fire Service 'should have taken charge'

The Fire Service deputy national commander told the inquest the lack of training of officers to deal with situations such as the February earthquake extended to the top levels of the service.

Paul McGill said the first firefighters to arrive on the scene threw out the book regarding the approach they were supposed to adopt, because of the initial lack of manpower and the urgent need to pull people from the rubble.

He said this resulted in the fire being contained instead of extinguished.

Mr McGill said no-one from the Fire Service took control of co-ordinating the overall effort.

It appeared the service thought that police were in charge of the scene and police thought the Fire Service had taken control, he said.

Mr McGill accepted that the Fire Service should have taken control of the scene because it was the lead agency in a situation such as this.

He said given the lack of manpower in the early stages of the rescue and the enormity of the task in front of them, he could understand how the fire fighters went about their task.

Mr McGill said further training is required for front line officers, and for executive managers who neglected to rectify problems when they visited the site 12 hours after the collapse.

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