A search and rescue expert used Oklahoma City bombing
terrorist attack rescue techniques to take control of the CTV
Building collapse site, an inquest heard today.
But by the time Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) operations
manager Royce Tatham travelled from Palmerston North to
Christchurch after the February 22 earthquake, no more
survivors were to be found.
Today at a coroner's inquest looking at the deaths of eight
CTV victims, who all survived the six-storey collapse but
were unable to be rescued alive, he was critical of the
amount of time it took to mobilise to the disaster site.
While his Palmerston North-based USAR taskforce had packed up
their specialist rescue gear, arranged flights with the Royal
New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), and arrived at Ohakea Air Base
by about 4pm - the plane did not leave until 10pm.
And the RNZAF did not have a Hercules available to them, so
they had to commandeer a commercial plane, which could not
take the 22 tonnes of USAR rescue kit.
The gear then had to be taken by truck to Wellington, which
crossed the Cook Strait by ferry, before being driven down to
Christchurch - arriving by 4am.
In the meantime, Mr Tatham had flown down, and taken control
of the CTV site at around 1am, where the six-storey office
block had collapsed and would claim 115 lives.
Giving evidence today he questioned if the RNZAF was the best
agency for USAR to rely on, given that they are often
deployed overseas and can't always guarantee resources.
He had expected a Hercules, with a massive lifting capacity
to take them, but instead had to rely on a commercial plane
to carry what it could to Christchurch.
No training had been done with the Air Force ahead of the
When Mr Tatham arrived at CTV, he called on techniques he had
learned from the experts at the Oklahoma City bombing to take
He wanted to use listening devices to hear if there were any
survivors in the tangled debris.
"My plan was to get everyone to shut up, get off site, do a
technical search, and take control," Mr Tatham, a fire
station officer and USAR operations manager, said.
He told people in charge of the various rescuers there -
fire, police and civilians - that there would be a "quiet
period" in 20 minutes.
Once quiet was established he used delsar listening devices
to check for signs of life.
They crossed the rubble and at various points paused to say,
'Tap if you can hear me'.
Sniffer dogs were of no use because of the amount of smoke on
site from the fire which broke out after the collapse at
While they found several dead bodies, and managed to
extricate them, no more survivors were found.
He was speaking on the tenth day of a coroner's inquest into
the deaths of Dr Tamara Cvetanov 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.
- By Kurt Bayer of APNZ