SYDNEY – New Zealand police said Tuesday they will launch a criminal investigation into the collapse of a building that claimed the lives of 115 people, including 28 Japanese students, during a magnitude-6.3 earthquake in Christchurch 3½ years ago.
The decision to probe the collapse of the six-story Canterbury Television Building follows an 18-month-long assessment and evaluation of information.
“Based on this information, we now believe there is sufficient evidence to warrant further criminal investigation into the collapse of the CTV building in February 2011,” Superintendent Peter Read said in a statement.
Engineering consultancy firm Beca has been assisting police with their inquiries, providing expert opinion on the collapse of the building and whether accepted standards were adhered to by the designers and builders.
While no time frame for how long the investigation will take has been set, Read said that “we will continue to keep all parties informed as we work through the process.”
Families of victims have been advised of the decision.
Most of the 185 people who died in the earthquake that hit Christchurch on Feb. 22, 2011, were in the CTV Building, which collapsed and then burned.
Among the 115 fatalities there, 71 were foreigners studying at King’s Education School for English Language, which was housed in the upper floors of the building.
A government Royal Commission report on the earthquake released in late 2012 found that the building did not meet construction standards when it was built in the 1980s and should not have been granted a permit.
It also found the engineer who designed the building was inexperienced in designing multistory buildings and did not have adequate support from his boss, who took a hands-off approach.
Opportunities to identify the building’s shortcomings were also missed during the construction phase and a subsequent period when strengthening work was carried out on it.
Shortly after the release of the report, police began assessing and evaluating information to determine whether a criminal investigation would ensue.