Fire fighter told not to rescue people
Wed, 31 Oct 2012 6:09p.m.
By Jessica Rowe
A fire fighter first on the scene at the CTV building collapse was told not to carry out any rescues.
He told the coroner's inquest into the deaths of eight who survived the collapse, but later died, that a senior fire officer told him to concentrate on the fire and leave the rescues to everybody else.
Fire station officer Alan Butcher was in charge of the first crew that stumbled on the CTV building collapse by chance while driving through the city.
He tried to call for more appliances over the radio, but struggled to get the message through as communications were overloaded.
“There was nothing formal about my radio message and I gave up waiting for a space, and instead just yelled out on top of everybody else,” Mr Butcher says.
When help did arrive, it was 54 minutes after the quake.
Steve Warden was the second station officer at the scene, and says they were short on crews and didn't have time to establish a command point.
“It never entered the equation with the amount of work we had to do in the initial response,” Mr Warden says.
“We were stretched, there was no spare person to command the site, we busy trying to work quickly on our side,” Mr Butcher says, “and we were hoping a high-ranking official would come.”
Finally a high-ranking official did arrive, and ordered fire fighters to focus on the deep-seated fire - not the people trapped under the rubble that were in desperate need of help.
“Dave Burford visited the CTV site at some point and spoke to me. Dave Burford instructed me to attend to the fire rather than focus on rescues.”
Eight foreigners were trapped alive in the rubble but died of their injuries before being rescued.
Mr Butcher told the inquest the only equipment he had on the fire truck was a sledgehammer and a saw, and that a water supply was hard to come by at the scene.
Also missing was someone in command.
Demolition workers who were there helping at the scene will give evidence tomorrow.
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1/11/2012 12:14:50 p.m.
Well said Fred, all the experts and hero's appear after the event, everyone did their very best at the time, the aftershocks were immediate, ongoing and violent and people were in shock and scared. The big problem is too much red tape, procedures, process, who reports to who and getting a Health and Safety handbook out first. If we stand around and think about it too much we lose our body's natural survival mechanism in the saving the lives of others.
1/11/2012 8:41:39 a.m.
The best change for NZ that could come out of this inquiry is the establishment of an Independent Commissioner for Public and Workplace Safety.
The victims of the CTV building disaster would then have not died in vain.
1/11/2012 8:10:58 a.m.
ex fire officer is so right. those at or near the top keep getting circulated in the top jobs, all they are good at is paper shuffling. I think the law should be changed so that fire fighters are independant of the law when this type of disaster occurs. police have no more idea in fact probably less than firefighters in a situation like this. I doubt any one will be ever held accountable for this. But the worst thing which could happen now is if nothing is learned from this or if new procedures are taken on and they end up being worse than now.
1/11/2012 7:00:05 a.m.
Ex Fire Service Officer wrote:
Correction to my previous post - the Chair of the NZ Fire Service is now Wyatt Creech ex National MP and National party hack! Creech is equally unqualified to run a major emergency service as was Bazley - nothing but government head nodders who get a guaranteed meal ticket if they keep the cost of running these organisations to a minimum without due consideration to operational effectiveness and the safety of the public and their personnel! Time for another Royal Commission of Inquiry!
31/10/2012 10:48:40 p.m.
The gross (and unnecessary)loss of life at the CTV building is symptomatic of dysfunctional NZ government policy which includes allowing local government Councils to manage public safety issues and "yes" men and women to Manage critical public Emergency services in NZ! Case in point - what the F..k would Dame Margaret Bazley -Chair of the NZ Fire Service - know about preparing for and responding to an emergency like the CTV building - let me tell you - sweet F..k all!
31/10/2012 10:22:12 p.m.
Despite the disaster management scope of the Christchurch earthquake situation there is no reasonable excuse a NZ government emergency service organisation in this day and age can forward for placing front line emergency personnel in the overwhelming position emergency service personnel found themselves in with regard to the CTV building which resulted in mass loss of life because of poor management systems, poor training and poor resources - it is absolutely criminal negligence (and arguably a breach of local Occupational Health and Safety legislation).
For example the NZ government has an official Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which offers NZ emergency service and Civil Defence agencies virtually free advice and training in preparing for and responding to incidents like the CTV building collapse, fire and rescue situation! Questions need to be asked as to what practicable steps the NZ Fire Service and the CDEM agency Management (CDEM) organisation took to prepare for scenarios such as the CTV building emergency situation given the existence of the MOU with the US FEMA!
31/10/2012 7:11:51 p.m.
Don't be too hard on these guys. They were dealing with appaling situations that no one in NZ in recent times has been called on to deal with.
They did their best at the time and that is all we can ask of them. Hindsight can be cruel.
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