Chaotic St John leadership call played at mosque attacks inquest

Ambulances leave the scene of the shooting. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers
Ambulances leave the scene of the shooting. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers
A call among senior St John staff amid the Christchurch terror attack has shown the confused and chaotic information being discussed to co-ordinate a response.

Bruce Chubb, St John duty centre manager on March 15, 2019, is giving evidence in the inquest into the deaths of 51 worshippers at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre.

During his evidence, the audio of a call set up to discuss the incident with about 20 St John leaders was played.

The call began just prior to 2pm on the day of the attack.

It showed that St John still believed only four or five people were victims of the incident more than 20 minutes after the first shooting began at Al Noor Mosque.

It took St John staff about half an hour to enter the Deans Avenue mosque to provide medical assistance to victims.

It was not until 2.07pm that Chubb can be heard on the call learning that there were up to 50 patients.

"I'm just going to interrupt you all," Chubb said in the call.

"We've now had a confirmed number of between 40 and 50 patients at the mosque in [Deans] Ave."

The audio also shows senior staff discussing how best to respond to the incident and how it would set up an area for handling "multiple casualties" outside of the hospital.

Hagley Park was considered a "dangerous place" for such a centre, one person on the call said.

Chubb told St John counsel James Wilding the leadership call was "difficult" and "challenging" given the circumstances.

Escalating such an incident to those higher up in St John had changed since the terror attack, he said.

A national operations centre had been set up, run 24/7 out of Auckland.

It meant if an incident such as this ever happened again, he would contact the operations centre and they would take over organising a leadership team meeting.

It would leave him - or any other duty manager - freer to support their team and manage the response.

The inquest will examine the following 10 issues over seven weeks:

  • Events of 15 March 2019 from the commencement of the attack until the terrorist's formal interview by police
  • Response times and entry processes of police and ambulance officers at each mosque
  • Triage and medical response at each mosque
  • The steps that were taken to apprehend the offender
  • The role of, and processes undertaken by, Christchurch Hospital in responding to the attack
  • Coordination between emergency services and first responders
  • Whether the terrorist had any direct assistance from any other person on 15 March 2019
  • If raised by immediate family, and to the extent it can be ascertained, the final movements and time of death for each of the deceased
  • The cause of death for each of the victims and whether any deaths could have been avoided
  • Whether Al Noor Mosque emergency exit door in the southeast corner of the main prayer room failed to function during the attack and, if so, why?

The inquest continues.

-By Danielle Clent

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