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Christchurch terror attack inquest: ‘Significant blind spot’ relating to St John’s specialist paramedics – coroner

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A woman who was forced to leave the side of her bleeding husband following the terror attack at Christchurch’s Linwood Islamic Centre only discovered he had died the following day after seeking help from then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Saira Patel’s husband Musa Patel was one of seven people who died after being shot at the Linwood Islamic Centre, following the massacre at nearby Al Noor Mosque on 15 March 2019.

Supported by her son, Patel told the inquest into the deaths that she and her husband were praying in separate parts of the mosque on the day of the attack.

Patel said she thought a tyre had blown when she heard a loud bang. A baby began to cry, and she could soon smell gunpowder.

She yelled, “Someone is shooting, someone is shooting” as people ran to escape.

When Patel found her bleeding husband, she told the Coroners Court she could hear him saying his “last prayer” as if he knew he was about to die.

Imam Hafiz Musa Patel

Musa Patel died at Linwood Islamic Centre on 15 March 2019. Photo: Facebook/ US Embassy Suva

She said she was forced to leave when police arrived and started treating Musa Patel, an order that distressed her to this day.

“I think any dying person who is about to leave this world would be very desperately craving and needing to be close to their loved ones. My presence during his final moments would have made a big difference in my life and I think maybe his last moments of departing this world,” she said.

She did not know her husband had died until the following day, when she approached then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who led her to a counsellor.

Patel said the counsellor showed her a photo of an unidentified man in hospital who was not her husband.

“I knew then that my husband was dead. There was no-one else who could have identified him, and this last unidentified man was my last hope,” she said.

Patel thanked the doctors and paramedics who did everything they could to console her husband in his final moments.

“I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

“I was trying to be with him in that last moment but maybe they were chosen to be with him.”

Dr Alison Wooding from nearby Piki Te Ora Medical Centre was one of the doctors who treated Musa Patel when staff went to the mosque to help the injured.

She told the court he was meant to be the first victim taken to hospital but realised he had died after he was moved onto a stretcher.

Wooding said she and others were talking to Musa Patel the entire time they cared for him, but she did not recall him ever responding.

Police officers gave evidence on Tuesday saying Musa Patel had been able to communicate with them at first but his condition deteriorated over time.

Wooding told the court she felt apprehensive and worried about the situation at the mosque, but safe and protected between armed and vigilant police officers.

29th November 2023 Iain McGregor/The Press/Pool Christchurch Masjidain Attack Coronial hearing. Coroner Brigitte Windley.

Deputy chief coroner Brigitte Windley. Photo: The Press / Iain McGregor

‘Significant blind spot’ relating to St John emergency response team – coroner

The coroner has queried a “significant blind spot” in the way St John ambulance officers work with specialist paramedics trained to work in dangerous situations.

Deputy chief coroner Brigitte Windley questioned St John duty manager Bruce Chubb about the organisation’s response massacre.

Two Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) paramedics were among ambulance officers who went to the scene of the shooting in Linwood Avenue.

No-one from St John attended the Al Noor scene in a SERT capacity.

Chubb told the Coroners Court that SERT teams worked under police and it was not uncommon for St John not to know when they had been requested, where they were, or what they were doing.

In response, coroner Windley said: “My concern is that that creates a significant blind spot for St John, doesn’t it?”

“Isn’t it that these are critical resources in terms of closing that care gap for people who are dying and injured and being able to get a response in, and you’ve got no visibility about where they are and even if in fact they’ve been deployed?”

041223 CHRIS SKELTON Witness, Bruce Chubb from St John command and control during the Christchurch terror attack inquest held at the Christchurch Justice precinct.

St John’s Bruce Chubb. Photo: Stuff / Chris Skelton

Chubb said he was not suggesting it was “okay” that St John did not know where SERT officers were but said it was the practice at the time.

He was not aware of any changes to the SERT policy since the terror attack.

Chubb told the coroner he thought it was “always nice to know” where resources were, to which she replied, “I would suggest it’s more than nice to know. I would suggest that St John needs to know”.

Chubb earlier told the inquest that he believed general ambulance officers should not have entered either mosque immediately after the shootings because of the safety risk.

Windley said the court was concerned St John ambulance officers had to breach the organisation’s policy in order to get an emergency response in place.

“Do you agree that that’s fundamentally a problem?” she asked.

“Yes,” Chubb replied.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chubb told counsel for families Kathryn Dalziel that the terror attack was a catastrophic event that he did not expect and was never prepared for.

“I don’t believe any of my colleagues were either, so it was fundamentally overwhelming,” he said.

The inquest will examine the following 10 issues over seven weeks:

  • Events of 15 March 2019 from the commencement of the attack until the terrorist’s formal interview by police
  • Response times and entry processes of police and ambulance officers at each mosque
  • Triage and medical response at each mosque
  • The steps that were taken to apprehend the offender
  • The role of, and processes undertaken by, Christchurch Hospital in responding to the attack
  • Coordination between emergency services and first responders
  • Whether the terrorist had any direct assistance from any other person on 15 March 2019
  • If raised by immediate family, and to the extent it can be ascertained, the final movements and time of death for each of the deceased
  • The cause of death for each of the victims and whether any deaths could have been avoided
  • Whether Al Noor Mosque emergency exit door in the southeast corner of the main prayer room failed to function during the attack and, if so, why?

The inquest continues.

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NZ First Minister Casey Costello orders 50% cut to excise tax on heated tobacco products

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Associate Health Minister Casey Costello has cut the excise tax on Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs), as she aims to make them more attractive as an alternative to smoking.

Costello, who is also Customs Minister, has cut the excise rate on HTPs by 50 percent effective from 1 July – a move silently dropped on the Customs website.

Costello refused to be interviewed by RNZ but a spokesman said she had made the move to reduce the cost of the products to encourage smokers to switch to safer alternatives.

But Janet Hoek, a Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago, told RNZ that the move seemed weighted in favour of the tobacco industry.

“Certainly that is something that tobacco companies would have been keen to see happen,” Hoek said. “This is not advice that is coming from the Ministry (of Health). It certainly seems to be advice that is suiting tobacco industry interests.”

Tobacco giant Philip Morris owns a leading brand in the HTP market, the IQOS, where sticks of tobacco are inserted into a device and heated, rather than burned.

Philip Morris has lobbied for a cut to the excise tax on HTPs, telling the Tax Working Group in 2018 that the government should “establish a tax rate for heated tobacco products significantly below the tax rate” for tobacco.

In a statement to RNZ Costello said that vaping had been a successful quit-smoking tool and she wanted to see whether HTPs would also be a useful cessation device.

“Vaping does not work for everyone and some attempting to quit have tried several times. HTPs have a similar risk profile to vapes and they are currently legally available, so we are testing what impact halving excise on those products makes.”

HEETS are tobacco sticks or refills that are heated in an electronic device, rather than burned like a traditional cigarette.

There is no evidence that Heated Tobacco Products help people to quit smoking, the Ministry of Health says. Photo: 123RF

Documents released by the Ministry of Health show Costello also asked for advice on liberalising the regulation of HTPs but it was opposed to the idea.

“There is no evidence to support their use as a quit smoking tool,” ministry officials told her. “We do not recommend liberalising the way HTPs are promoted. This would likely compound existing concerns about youth uptake and addiction to nicotine products.

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26-year-old charged after man found dead in car outside vape store

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Police in Auckland have arrested a man in relation to the homicide investigation launched in Mount Wellington at the weekend.

Officers were called to Penrose Road in Mount Wellington about 10.40pm on Saturday after reports of a gun being fired outside a business.

On arrival they found a man dead in a car.

Police have named the man as 22-year-old Texas Jack Doctor.

They say a 26-year-old man has been arrested, charged with accessory after the fact to murder.

He is expected to appear in Auckland District Court Wednesday.

VIA RNZ

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Police pay deal: Commissioner’s advice to cut super payments ‘foolish’

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Police officers are accusing the police commissioner of “robbing our future”, after a leaked email suggested staff reduce their superannuation contribution to save cash after a disappointing pay offer.

The email to police staff from Police Commissioner Andrew Coster suggested officers forgo their contribution to the police superannuation scheme to compensate for the government’s final pay offer not keeping up with the cost of living.

An officer with nearly 20 years’ experience says cops were feeling “unappreciated and despondent”.

The Police Association and the government have been arguing over pay rates for more than a year.

Independent arbitrator Vicki Campbell was appointed in April to decide which of each party’s final offers would be adopted after no agreement was reached in negotiations.

On Monday, she found in favour of the government’s latest offer, which included a $1500 lump sum payment, a flat $5000 pay increase for officers, plus another 4 percent increase in July and the same in 2025.

There would also be a 5.25 percent increase in allowances backdated to last November.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the officer said backdating the allowances to November instead of July – when the previous pay agreement had expired – was one of the biggest bones of contention among officers.

“It’s always months down the track after after the contract expires before we get a resolution. We’ve been sold short and have we just set a dangerous precedent that we won’t get our back pay from when our contract actually ends?” they said.

Another officer, who RNZ agreed not to name, said members of the Police Association had welcomed the arrival of the new government’s Minister of Police – former officer Mark Mitchell – but he was not “walking the walk”.

“I was optimistic given what Mark Mitchell was saying that it would be a better environment for police. He’s good at talking it up but he’s not supporting the staff who are supposed to deliver on his big promises. He’s just talked shit,” the officer said.

Mitchell has defended the deal saying it was the best the government could do. He told Checkpoint on Tuesday officers would be paid overtime for the first time ever.

The officer RNZ spoke to said his family was struggling and he had hoped negotiations would bring some significant relief.

“We live from pay day to pay day. What they’ve done doesn’t give us anything like inflation or most interest rates costs.

“I don’t understand how that’s okay when you have a review for this date, the police stall negotiations, and then somehow move the date back,” he said.

In a leaked email sent to police staff following the decision Coster said the delays to negotiations were compounded by the timing of the election and the change of government.

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