Wife's CTV building death detailed

A woman trapped in the debris of the collapsed CTV building could hear her distraught husband shouting her name as he searched for her, an inquest was told today.

English language student Dr Tamara Cvetanova survived when the six-storey Christchurch office block collapsed in the deadly February 22 earthquake.

She had lost the tips of four fingers, but was otherwise unscathed, trapped in a void between the pancaked third and fourth floors.

After dropping tools at work to locate his two young children and drop them to safety at a neighbour, husband Srecko 'Alec' Cvetanov rushed to the CTV site to try to find his wife, who he could not reach by phone.

When he arrived at the Madras St site, he found the building reduced to a smoking pile of rubble.

"I was worried Tamara was inside," Mr Cvetanov told a coroner's inquest today.

He finally managed to reach his wife by cellphone at 10.48pm - almost 10 hours after the collapse.

She only had time to say "Yes," before the network went down.

Excited, he called back and she managed to tell him she was still in her classroom, which he passed on to police.

She was not scared because her husband had told her rescue services knew she was alive and were working at getting her out. Dr Cvetanova, who was a student at King's Education School for English Language, was in a void with four other survivors, from the Philippines, one whose left hand was trapped under a concrete block.

A police officer spoke to the trapped woman several times.

Mr Cvetanov then clambered on top of the twisted steel and concrete to tap on the concrete slabs to see if his wife could hear his knocking.

"Tamara told me she could hear my knocking ... even my shouting her name," he said today.

They hung up, and confirmed that she could still hear him without aid of the phone.

Police watched him do this, and Mr Cvetanov relayed details of the conversation.

At 11.25pm, she told him she was going to turn off her cellphone to save her battery.

Mr Cvetanov, a friend and a police officer, tried phoning her more than seven times but could not get through.

At 12.50am, she turned her phone on again and dialled 111.

She was not heard from again.

The harrowing evidence came at a coroner's inquest into the deaths of Dr 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 and survived the collapse but could not be rescued from the wreckage.

A total of 115 people died in the building collapse.

The inquest, before Coroner Gordon Matenga, continues.

- Kurt Bayer of APNZ

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