Widower of CTV victim details tragedy
Mon, 03 Dec 2012 12:15p.m.
By Thomas Mead
The widower of a woman killed in the collapse of the CTV building in Christchurch has told an inquest about the numerous phone calls his wife made while trapped in the rubble.
Dr Tamara Cvetanova was one of eight people known to have survived the collapse, but who died before they could be rescued.
Their deaths are now the focus of an inquest before Coroner Gordon Matenga.
More than eight hours after the CTV building collapsed, Alec Cvetanov managed to contact his trapped wife via cellphone.
The first call lasted only a few seconds, but the two had more than six conversations with Alec promising Tamara he would find and rescue her.
“She had lost the tips of four fingers on left hand but otherwise was fine, she was not scared because I had told her fire service and police would come and get her,” he said.
“She was calm and was not in panic. She had faith in the rescuers.”
Alec told the inquiry that apart from the injury to her left hand, she was otherwise unharmed but was trapped in a tunnel.
Tamara was there with four other women from Kings School, where she was learning to speak English.
Another woman had an arm trapped in rubble, but the others were free to move around and could light their way using their cellphones.
Phone service was patchy, but Alec says after the third or fourth call he decided to climb onto the rubble himself.
“She told me that she could hear engines noises, so I told her would get on top of building with stone to see if she could hear that,” he told the inquest.
Alec says he struck the top of the collapse building with the stone, asking if she could hear it. She told him she could. Tamara could also hear him yelling, although he could not hear her reply.
Alec believes that at the time he was standing right above where Tamara was trapped.
“She could hear knocks and was shouting out my name, we both turned off our phones when I yelled for her.”
Soon after, at just after 11pm, Tamara decided to turn off her phone to save the battery.
That’s the last time Mr Cvetanov talked to his wife. She was never rescued.
Of the 185 people killed in the quake, 115 were in the CTV building.
Along with the death of Tamara, the inquest is looking at the deaths of Jessie Redouble, Emmabelle Anoba, Ezra Medalle, Reah Sumalpong and Rika Hyuga, who are all foreign nationals.
The coroner has requested that the inquest be streamed live online, so overseas families of the deceased could watch proceedings.
“Many of the 115 people who died in the collapse of the CTV building were from overseas,” he said.
“It is hugely important that those who lost loved ones in the tragedy have the opportunity to have access to the inquest's proceedings, wherever they are," he said.
The inquest continues through to Friday.
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