CTV inquest: 'There were some horrible sights'

File photo / Geoff Sloan
File photo / Geoff Sloan

The inquest into the CTV deaths has heard of frustrations caused by delays and chaos in the hours after the catastrophe.

The Coroner's inquest in Christchurch is investigating the deaths of victims of the CTV building collapse on February 22 last year, killing 115 people.

A demolition contractor has told the inquest that he was frustrated by the efforts of untrained rescuers.

"There were some horrible sights. Bodies were being placed in body bags," Alan Edge of Southern Demolition told the inquest this afternoon (Thur).

He said many people had formed human chains on top of the collapsed building to remove debris.

Mr Edge considered this was ineffective and he was frustrated that he was unable to use his heavy machinery.

It was unclear who was in charge. People seemed to obey the most confident sounding person.

Mr Edge was also frustrated when Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) staff told him not to use his heavy machinery, although at one stage all activity ceased to allow for an amputation.

Mr Edge was cross-examined by the counsel assisting the coroner about his experience in removing people from collapsed buildings.

He acknowledged he had experience in removing rubble, but not bodies or injured people.

He said his digger drivers were so experienced they could wipe a desk clean without scraping it.

"No one was listening to the jokers with common sense and motivation to get people out," Mr Edge said.

Other witnesses have told the inquest that the rescue operation slowed down after USAR staff took over.

Earlier today Christchurch City Council senior manager Jane Parfitt, the Civil Defence controller on February 22, told the inquest that it took two hours for an engineer to fill out forms at the council offices before he went to the collapsed CTV building, and that was too long.

The engineer had listening equipment, vital to the rescue operation.

Ms Parfitt attributed the delay to tightened health and safety requirements after the Boxing Day earthquake.

The head of Civil Defence in Christchurch, Murray Sinclair, told the inquest this afternoon that he doubted an engineer had spent two hours filling out forms.

Mr Sinclair said it was possible engineer Lew Pickering had been required to wait until a decision was made about allocating resources. He would have been required to fill out two forms.

Mr Sinclair described how Civil Defence was largely manned by council staff. The city council has responsibility for the city and environs, and the regional council had a region-wide oversight.

In cross examination Mr Sinclair was asked how emergency staff would know of the resources available to them.

Mr Sinclair said police had a liaison person so that technical equipment could be made available, but it would still rely on a request.

He was asked by counsel assisting he coroner, Richard Raymond, how emergency services would know what to ask for if they didn't know what resources were available.

Mr Raymond said it should be the other way around - that Civil Defence in city council headquarters should say what assistance they had available, and it should then be relayed to the people in the field.

"I can't verify whether that happened or not," Mr Sinclair said.

Nigel Hampton QC questioned the training and organisation of rescue teams and Civil Defence personnel.

Mr Sinclair acknowledged historical divisions between USAR rescue teams and the Fire Service, and said it would be desirable if joint training took place.

The inquest continues tomorrow.

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