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Widower relives CTV horror for rescue services 'to learn'

Published: 10:59AM Monday December 03, 2012 Source: ONE News

The CTV inquest has heard a husband relive his wife's final moments and his desperate search for her.
It is the third week of the hearing into the deaths of eight people who initially survived the building's collapse in the February 2011 earthquake, but later died.
Alec Cvetanov shared his harrowing account of his wife Tamara's final 12 hours and his desperate search for her in the rubble.

He feels his efforts were thwarted by a lack of co-ordination amongst rescuers. And yet he made a point of thanking all emergency workers for their efforts.

Cvetanov said he relived the horror of February 22 for one reason only.

"I want people responsible for all rescue services in New Zealand to learn from Tamara's death so that somebody else does not die in similar circumstances," he told the coroner.

Cvetanov had promised his two children he would bring their mother home before he raced to the collapsed CTV building to begin his frantic search.
Tamara Cvetanov was trapped alongside five Filipino students, Alec spoke to her six times on her cellphone as she lay beneath the rubble.

"People are doing everything to save you," he told her in one of the calls.

"She had lost the tips of four fingers on her left hand but was otherwise uninjured and fine," he told the inquest.

"She was not scared because I had told her the police and fire services were trying to rescue her."

In desperation, Cvetanov climbed the debris, tapping on the rubble to find his wife.

She could hear him, but he says there was no equipment to pinpoint her exact location.

Soon after he was escorted off the site and a police officer later threatened to arrest him to stop him returning.

"There was no co-ordinated rescue attempt to save Tamara," Cvetanov told the inquest.

From afar, he told the coroner, he saw a digger that was removing rubble from the site drop a beam on the area where Tamara was trapped.

"I can't blame them if eventually they, by trying to cut the bonding beam, they killed the people in it," he said.

There were no more calls from Tamara's phone after that time, although Alec tried repeatedly to make contact.

Her body was found days later, but he still does not know her exact cause of death.

"The police only ever told me that Tamara's body was smashed, broken and burnt and that the earthquake caused the death. That is not true. The earthquake did not," he said.

Cvetanov maintains a poorly-run rescue effort meant Tamara was not brought out alive, along with the seven others who survived the collapse but died in the rubble.

Cvetanov was supported in the courtroom by Taku Hyuga whose daughter Rika died in the CTV building collapse.

He has come from Japan for the inquest and usually sits outside the court with a translator, but today sat inside the court in a show of solidarity.