Police 'not equipped' to handle CTV collapse

9:48 pm on 29 October 2012

Police responding to the collapse of the CTV building in the Christchurch earthquake were not trained or equipped well enough, an inquest has been told.

The inquest resumed on Monday and is focusing on the deaths of eight people who initially survived in the 6.3-magnitude quake on 22 February last year but could not be reached by rescuers.

Inspector John Price, the operations commander immediately after the quake, told the inquest his staff were at the central city site within minutes and immediately realised that it was a priority.

However, Mr Price says they did not have the right equipment or training to best handle what they faced.

Mr Price says normally, police would play a supportive role to the Fire Service and Urban Search and Rescue teams, but because of the scale of the disaster resources were spread thin.

The inquest was shown dramatic video footage of the emergency response.

The footage, gathered by various media organisations in the hours following the quake, shows Alec Cvetanov sitting on the rubble on the phone to his wife Tamara Cvetanov, who survived the collapse but later died because she could not be rescued.

It also shows injured survivors being carried away on stretchers and dozens of rescuers clearing away debris.

A police representative, Detective Brett Chesterman, told the inquest that the footage is important for giving context to the disaster.

In his opening statement on Monday, Richard Raymond, the lawyer assisting Coroner George Matenga, said the inquest is not about laying blame, but rather identifying lessons that can be learnt.

Several family members of victims are attending the hearing, which is expected to take two weeks.