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'Improvements will be made' - fire official

Wednesday 5 Dec 2012 5:34 p.m.

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A fire service official has promised the widow of a CTV victim that major changes will be made so a tragedy such as the botched CTV building rescue never happens again.

A coroner's inquest is into its final week investigating the deaths of eight people who survived the collapse of the CTV building but died trapped in the wreckage.

Paul McGill is the fire service's director of operations and training and today he took full responsibility for not preparing his staff adequately for an event such as the CTV building's collapse.

He also took the opportunity to make a heartfelt pledge to a victim's husband seated in the back of the court.

“Mr Cvetanov, you said your wish was that any learnings of this inquest would make a difference in the future to rescue efforts in New Zealand and overseas - the national commander and I promise you that significant improvements will be made,” Mr McGill told the court.

Alec Cvetanov had previously told the hearing that he doesn't know what killed his trapped wife, but today pathologist Martin Sage gave his opinion.

“All the other features were consistent with fire damage having occurred entirely after she had died of her massive crush injuries.”

The decision to pull rescue staff off the CTV building just 24 hours after the quake also came under scrutiny. Charmaine Tate, an army doctor attached to USAR, was involved in it.

“The driving factor of that discussion was not survivability and ending all hope, it was a factor of needing to prioritise finite resources,” Ms Tate told the court.

She said there were reports that 22 people were trapped in the cathedral and that, plus several other factors, influenced the decision.

An international disaster response expert, Los Angeles fire chief Ernesto Ojeda, also took his turn to criticise the emergency response at the CTV building. He says the lack of an incident command point at the site was a glaring error.

“I don't think any of the senior officers I know would get to that site and not leave somebody to set up a command post,” said Mr Ojeda.

The inquest will finish tomorrow.

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