CTV inquest: 'No confusion' over leadership

File photo / Geoff Sloan
File photo / Geoff Sloan

Acting Fire Service manager Steve Barclay has disagreed strongly with some earlier witnesses at the CTV inquest that there was confusion over leadership on February 22 last year.

Dissatisfaction with Fire Service management has been a feature of some evidence witness at the inquest, being held in Christchurch.

Mr Barclay explained that the Ferry Rd regional headquarters were at Woolston, 8-10km away. It took an hour and a half to reach city area headquarters due to liquefaction and heavy traffic after the earthquake.

The coroner asked several questions about the way the area managers and regional managers worked together and who was higher in the hierarchy.

Area managers dealt with city emergencies in the first instances, according to Mr Barclay.

Sometimes the same managers would be on call for the region or the area commands and at the time they were of equal rank.

Mr Barclay rejected criticism from an earlier witness that he was stressed and ``not in a good head space'', in the words of one of the counsel assisting the coroner.

He faced detailed questioning about his immediate actions after the earthquake.

He said he ensured a civil state of emergency was declared and had dispatched senior officers to the city council civil defence centre.

He was asked more than once by counsel assisting the coroner why he had spent one and a half hours travelling from the Chester St Fire Service city headquarters to the Woolston Urban Search And Rescue base.

Mr Barclay said he needed to assess what equipment was available. He remained in contact by radio with Fire Service personnel but there was no one manning the USAR Woolston base, which is why he physically went there.

He then spent much of the afternoon liaising with the city council and regional command.

There were many disaster sites but he acknowledged he knew that CTV was a major crisis site. He did not know who was in charge there. Mr Barclay agreed with counsel that it was unsatisfactory and if he had gone there he would have taken charge, but he could not have carried the functions he was already engaged in.

The people at those sites were people with a lot of experience. This was an unusual event and in normal course there would have been officers in charge of each of those sites, Mr Barclay said.

He was quizzed about why there had not been a debrief for Fire Service staff and replied that it was the responsibility of the regional commander Rob Saunders. Mr Barclay said he had brought it up with Mr Saunders.

Nigel Hampton QC asked which "hat'' Mr Barclay was wearing at different times during the day.

He replied that he had gone to the Woolston USAR base he was acting as the city's senior USAR officer. When he was liaising with the city council he was acting as Fire Service area manager.

Mr Barclay denied there had been a "problem'' between Civil Defence and the Fire Service.

The coroner's probe is looking into the deaths of Tamara Cvetanova of Serbia, Cheng Mai of China, Japan's Rika Hyuga and Jessie Redouble, Emmabelle Anoba, Ezra Medalle, Reah Sumalpong and Mary Amantillo, all from the Philippines.

All were students at King's Education School for English Language on the CTV Building's third floor and survived the collapse but could not be rescued from the wreckage.

The inquest, before Coroner Gordon Matenga, continues.

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