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CTV building 'collapsed in seconds'

Monday 25 Jun 2012 5:22 a.m.

The Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission is nearing the end of its series of public hearings, and from today is hearing evidence on the deadliest February 22, 2011 building collapse - that of the Canterbury Television (CTV) building.

Around 50 family members of the 115 who died when building collapsed have heard opening statements at the resumption of the Royal Commission of Inquiry.

The site manager who oversaw the construction of the building in the 1980s has refused to give evidence in the hearing. With only email contact with the former Williams Construction manager, Gerald Shirtcliff, the Royal Commission has been unable to locate him.

Mr Shirtcliff, who is somewhere in Australia, had suggested he may give evidence via video link, but chairman for the commission, Justice Mark Cooper, says he has been uncooperative.

This morning Stephen Mills QC described how the building collapsed.

“The effect on the CTV building was sudden and shocking, most of the eyewitnesses to the collapse who have been spoken to by the Council assisting have referred to the building collapsing in a matter of seconds,” says Mr Mills.

The six-storey, 25-year-old building crumpled and caught fire after last year's 6.3 quake, killing 115 people, including 65 foreign students. The building accounted for the bulk of the 185 quake deaths.

The hearing, to try and find out why the building collapsed and killed so many people, is expected to last eight weeks.

As well as looking at consents, design and construction, there will be evidence from seven people who survived the collapse and about a dozen witnesses who saw it collapse from the outside.

Justice Cooper says he appreciates the help of the survivors, who “have awful memories of that day”.

There will also be evidence on the 1990 identification of structural weakness and damage caused by the September and December, 2010 quakes.

On July 12, the people behind the building's design, from Alan Reay Consultants, are expected to give evidence.

Structural engineer David Harding rejects claims made by his boss that Dr Alan Reay only spent three-and-a-half hours on the building’s design.

Police are looking into possible charges following the collapse, after a Department of Building and Housing investigation said the building's columns were not strong enough to stand up to the stresses the earthquake created.

It also said the strength of the columns and the asymmetrical layout of the supporting walls did not meet the building standards when it was built in 1986.

Dr Reay has disagreed with several findings in the department's reports, which he says are technically inadequate.

He also said that building standards in 1986 were not intended to withstand the magnitude and type of earthquake that struck on February 22.

The CTV building hearing is scheduled to finish mid-August and there will be one more hearing, on post-earthquake building assessments, in September.

3 News/NZN

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