31 Mar 2014

Families welcome CTV findings

10:03 pm on 31 March 2014

But Gordon Matenga has fallen short of saying that the search and rescue effort during a devastating earthquake in February 2011 contributed to the deaths of eight people who initially survived.

Alec Cvetanov's wife, Tamara Cvetanova, stayed alive for at least 12 hours beneath the rubble after the 6.3-magnitude quake hit at 12.51pm on 22 February.

Nigel Hampton and Alec Cvetanov at a news conference in Christchurch on Sunday.

Nigel Hampton and Alec Cvetanov at a news conference in Christchurch on Sunday. Photo: RNZ / Belinda McCammon

Rescuers were unable to reach her before she died from being crushed, either as a result of an aftershock or when rubble was being moved by diggers.

Mr Cvetanov has spent the past three years pushing for an inquiry into the search and rescue effort and says the Coroner's findings bring him some closure. "For me personally, it's the end. After this meeting I want to go back to my kids. How much I achieved, I don't want to be seen on the next event."

However, Mr Cvetanov says the report leaves many unanswered questions and he is afraid that the findings will create an atmosphere of lack of responsibility within the emergency services.

He said there was a systematic failure by the management of the emergency services at the time but he respects the Coroner's conclusions and lives in the hope that change will emerge.

Mr Cvetanov's lawyer Nigel Hampton told media on Sunday his client has doggedly fought for answers about what went wrong. He said the emergency services at the scene, particularly the executive officers, were trained to impose order out of chaos but it was sadly lacking.

"Why would 13 executive officers not impose an instant patrol point at the site, not take command of that site?"

Mr Hampton said it's not a satisfactory response for them to say they were overwhelmed by what was happening and he's sceptical about the Fire Service saying it has learned valuable lessons from what happened.

The Fire Service has acknowledged it could have been better prepared and has promised to make changes including better training for managers and better co-ordination between emergency services.

Mother can't accept findings

Rhea Sumalpong, 25, was among the eight who initially survived, according to phone calls, although her body was never found.

Her mother, Marlene Sumalpong, told Morning Report she cannot accept the Coroner's findings because what happened to her daughter was unjust and unfair.