CTV rescue workers 'went beyond the call of duty'

An inquest has been told rescuers at the site of the collapsed CTV building risked their lives to try to save others.

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

The central Christchurch building collapsed in the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on 22 February last year, claiming a total of 115 lives. The hearing has examined the deaths of eight people who initially survived the building's collapse and the role of those who tried to save them.

The inquest ended on Thursday with coroner Gordon Matenga reserving his ruling.

On the final morning, a US firefighter told the hearing rescuers went beyond the call of duty.

Los Angeles Fire Department captain Ernesto Ojeda said rescuers suffered head injuries because they left helmets at the entry to holes in the rubble before crawling inside.

Captain Ojeda said they put their helmets aside so they could move their heads about inside narrow gaps, and so there would be some indication of where they were in case they were not able to make it out again.

He said these rescuers went beyond the call of duty and were operating at what he described as the ragged edge of safe practice.

Captain Ojeda said Urban Search and Rescue needed a fulltime manager to ensure it is better prepared to respond to disasters.

He told the inquest it was unacceptable that it took 11 hours for USAR teams from outside Christchurch to arrive in the city on an Air Force plane, and if they had arrived earlier there may have been a greater chance of finding survivors.

Captain Ojeda said USAR was the country's insurance policy and it came down to how much New Zealand wanted to spend and how much cover it wanted for its citizens.

Mr Matenga thanked all those who appeared at the inquest, including Alec Cvetanov whose wife Tamara survived for at least 12 hours underneath the rubble, but died before rescuers could reach her.

Mr Matenga extended his condolences to the victims' families, including Mr Cvetanov.

He said he understood completely the hopelessness Mr Cvetanov must have felt as he clambered on top of the rubble, knowing his wife was only metres away from him but not being able to reach her.

Next story in Christchurch Earthquake : US firefighter criticises Fire Service managers