Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

CTV building manager felt 'huge sense of responsibility'

Photo / Geoff Sloan
Photo / Geoff Sloan

The building manager of the CTV building admitted today he felt a "huge sense of responsibility'' after 115 people died when it collapsed in the February 22 earthquake.

John Drew faced stern questioning today over his handling of the Christchurch office block's inspections after the September and Boxing Day earthquakes of 2010.

He thought the six-storey structure "felt strong'' after the seismic jolts, contradicting evidence already given to the royal commission of inquiry hearing into the CTV building's collapse.

"I had complete faith in the structural integrity of the building. I never for a minute thought the building might have been at risk of collapse,'' he said.

He was so confident in its performance that he did not ask for a second structural engineer's assessment after the Boxing Day quake.

But Mr Drew - who had no experience in property management - admitted today: "Since February 22, I have felt a huge sense of responsibility and I am forever questioning what might have been done differently.''

Witnesses told the hearing last week that they felt scared to be inside the building which "shook'' when trucks drove past and they raised their concerns with their bosses at work meetings.

Mr Drew, speaking this morning on the fifth day of the hearing, said those fears were not conveyed to him.

"I can honestly say that on each and every occasion I spoke with tenants and staff of businesses located within the building, I gave what I believed to have been an honest and fair assessment of the state of the building.''

Counsel assisting the commission, Marcus Elliott, said some of the bereaved families felt Mr Drew could have, or should have, done more to establish the building's safety before the February 22 disaster.

He asked Mr Drew if by not asking structural engineer David Coatsworth, who carried out an inspection after September 2010, to come back and look at structural drawings he asked for, and by not asking for another structural assessment after Boxing Day, he "didn't do everything you could've done to ensure the safety of those including yourself and your wife who occupied the building before February 22.''

"Yes, I could have done those things,'' an emotional Mr Drew replied.

Mr Drew earlier told how he was not present for the council safety inspections in the days after the initial September 4 quake.

The building manager still told occupants inside the Madras St office block that it was safe to occupy because "engineers'' had inspected it.

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission heard last week from three council workers who inspected the building after the magnitude-7.1 September shake that they were not engineers.

The commission is investigating how the CTV building collapsed in the shaking and caused such significant loss of life.

Mr Drew hired local firm CPG to carry out an independent structural assessment after September, and engineer Mr Coatsworth spent a day going over the building, finding no "structural integrity issues'', only minor cosmetic damage.

However, Mr Drew today said that while they spoke to a number of people as they went around, he could not recall them explaining how the building felt in the aftershocks which continued to rock the city.

One Kings Education occupant did say their floor had a "wave'' in it, but Mr Coatsworth explained that it was "typical'' of that kind of building and "was not concerned about it''.

Mr Coatsworth requested structural drawings as he did not possess "X-ray vision'' and wanted to know more of how the concrete building was made.

But Mr Drew struggled to produce the drawings, telling the hearing today that the council had warned him of an eight-week delay in accessing their records because they were in "disarray'' after the shakes.

The hearing, which opened last Monday, has already heard some harrowing testimonials from survivors and witnesses.

It is scheduled to last eight weeks.

- APNZ

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