High-tech cameras designed to probe collapsed buildings and search for signs of life failed on February 22, 2011, it was revealed yesterday.
The Coroner's inquest into the CTV building deaths heard that the cameras used by Urban Search and Rescue were prone to going on the blink and there had been several attempts over a two-year period to try and fix them.
USAR bosses had to buy "inferior" cheap cameras after budget restraints.
And when they were called into action to try and find survivors inside the collapsed six-storey CTV building, they failed to work because of connection issues.
USAR rescuers were frustrated that the critical kit let them down and potentially cost lives.
The cameras have now been phased out by USAR officials and replaced with state-of-the-art cameras worth $27,000 each.
USAR team leader Bryce Coneybeer made the revelations yesterday at an inquest into the deaths of eight students at King's Education School for English Language on the concrete tower's third floor.
Dr Tamara Cvetanova of Serbia, Cheng Mai of China, Japan's Rika Hyuga, and Jessie Redouble, Emmabelle Anoba, Ezra Medalle, Reah Sumalpong and Mary Amantillo, all from the Philippines, used cellphones to alert friends, family and emergency services that they had survived the collapse, but they were not found alive.
A critical part of the coroner's inquest, which is in its third and final week, has been a lack of a central command post at the CTV disaster site, where 115 people died.
Under cross examination by Richard Raymond, counsel assisting the coroner, Mr Coneybeer accepted that a central post would've given an "overarching understanding" of the site.
Rescuers gave evidence that they didn't know key rescue gear, like DelSar listening equipment or concrete cutting gear had been on site but not made available to them.
An overall commander could have helped logistically to run the rescue operation.
Since the disaster there had been "major changes" in how the New Zealand Fire Service relates to USAR.
"Why's that?", asked Coroner Gordon Matenga.
Mr Coneybeer, a senior fire station officer in Wanganui and experienced rescuer, explained that there had been a lot of debate since the Christchurch deployment, and steps were being taken to formally attach more fire managers to USAR to improve relations and knowledge of USAR operating principles.
The inquest continues today.