CTV inquest hears specialist equipment locked away

7:32 pm on 4 December 2012

An inquest has heard that a vital piece of listening equipment needed by Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams at the collapsed CTV building in Christchurch remained locked away because workers weren't told it was there.

The central city building collapsed in the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on 22 February last year, claiming 115 lives.

An inquest is looking into the deaths of eight people who survived the collapse but died before being rescued.

Rescue worker Ian Penn told the hearing on Tuesday the search would have benefited from the use of specialist listening equipment used to locate people underneath rubble.

Mr Penn said he was not aware one of these devices was available on the other side of the building where it was used once and then locked away.

Asked whether communication between the rescue teams working on the building would have been aided by the establishment of a single command point with one person in charge, he said this would have helped and avoided much-needed equipment lying idle.

On Monday, Mr Penn described how USAR crews formed a 'line and hail' procedure in which each rescuer takes a turn to shout into the rubble, looking for signs of life.

He said he banged the concrete three times and got an instant response, but because rescuers did not have concrete-cutting equipment, they never got to the trapped victims.

Flight delay still a 'mystery' - USAR leader

In other evidence on Tuesday, a senior USAR member said he still did not know why it took the Air Force so long to get his team from Ohakea to Christchurch to help in the rescue at the CTV building.

The head of the Palmerston North-based USAR unit, Bryce Coneybeer, said his team was at the Ohakea airforce base by 3.30pm on the afternoon of the quake, but had to wait nearly eight hours.

Mr Coneybeer described watching events unfold on the television while they waited and seeing reports an Australian rescue team was already on its way.

He said it was an awful feeling knowing it might get there before them.

Once they reached the CTV building, teams were limited in their ability to reach people because equipment such as cameras and concrete cutters had been sent by road and did not arrive until much later.

Another member of the Palmerston North USAR team, Chris Kennedy, also told the hearing equipment such as concrete cutters and cameras did not arrive for about another six hours.

Mr Kennedy said when the cameras finally did arrive, they failed to work.

He said he had no idea specialist listening equipment was available from the moment his team arrived in Christchurch and that he only found this gear by accident while looking for the cameras.