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Man fakes degree, 115 die

  1. Sep 14, 2012 #1
    This makes me sick to my stomach.

    This man stole the identity of a man he knew in order to bypass the bachelors part of his engineering degree. He then oversaw the construction of the CTV building in the 1980's in Christchurch, New Zealand.

    In February last year, Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake which killed 187 people and flattened a lot of really historic, old buildings, churches etc, basically annihilating the CBD and a lot of infrastructure, people's homes etc. But most of the people who were killed were crushed by the CTV building, which pancaked. 115 people, to be precise.

    It was built in the '80s, it should have been able to withstand an earthquake. I was there when it happened, it was the most terrifying thing I've ever been through in my life. It took about a whole year for me not to get a fright when a heavy vehicle went down the road (feels and sounds just like an aftershock).

    See here for the news story.

    The investigation is still underway, and it's certainly a complicated process to really be sure that any one person was to blame. But it's not looking good for this dude.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2012 #2
    That's why I keep this bookmarked:

    http://fukung.net/v/22320/68d71031caf377ef3aefa36870b8561e.jpg [Broken]

    Really eliminates any lingering desire to cheat that might be in my system.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Sep 14, 2012 #3


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    That's why we have a licensing process for engineers involved in construction or manufacture of such critical structures, and that is also why it is a criminal offense to falsely pose (or otherwise misrepresent onself) as a licensed individual. He ought to be charged with 115 counts of negligent homicide.

    Those drawings/plans need to be reviewed again, and an assessment made of the construction and whether or not it did comply with the drawings, and whether or not the drawings actually complied with seismic standards/requirements. Hopefully, the evidence was collected before removal of the debris.
  5. Sep 14, 2012 #4


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    The first priority should be to review any other projects he "supervised" IMO. You can't change what has already happened, but you might be able to prevent a repeat.
  6. Sep 14, 2012 #5
    ^ That's a really good point and I certainly hope the relevant authorities are doing just that.
  7. Sep 14, 2012 #6
    He bypassed the bachelor's part and passed the rest? I don't see how that's possible. If you put anyone straight into a graduate engineering program, they'd be completely at sea. There's no way they'd pass.
  8. Sep 14, 2012 #7
    The only info I have is what's in that article and the investigation is still underway. Could be that he partially completed a degree, who knows. Either way it sounds pretty certain that he used this stolen identity to fool the system and get into the Masters programme. He didn't get there by completing his own degree.
  9. Sep 14, 2012 #8


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    A Royal Commission of Inquiry is currently doing a good job of investigating who is to blame. And it is more likely to fall on the design engineers than this construction "engineer". The truth looks like being that a bunch of people combined to produce a shoddy building and this guy is a bit player on the evidence provided.

    Bear in mind also that while the CTV building did fall below building codes due to the cheapskate design, it did stand up through the first Canterbury quake which was "full code strength". Ground accelerations were .2 to .3 g's.

    The second quake was twice code - .6 to .8 g's - and yet even that caused only two complete major building collapses in central Christchurch. A remarkable number of buildings stood, even though about 80 percent of the central commercial space is having to be bulldozed now as the buildings are too compromised to be worth repair.

    On the whole, the story is one of success for the system. That is not to say that there are not other stories in New Zealand, like a shocking failure over leaky homes/monolithic cladding that followed a boneheaded deregulation of building construction in the late 1980s.
  10. Sep 14, 2012 #9


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    So the real title of this thread should be "Man fakes degree, becomes scapegoat?"
  11. Sep 14, 2012 #10
    The title of the thread was the most concise way I could think to describe the content of the thread.

    I never said he was with 100% certainty directly responsible for 115 deaths. This is what I said:

    Regardless, I don't think someone who would steal the identity of a person so as to falsely represent his ability to work on such projects, thereby endangering the lives and safety of others - all for personal gain - is deserving of your sympathy.
  12. Sep 15, 2012 #11


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    William Mulholland was a "self taught" engineer and the collapse of the St Francis Dam he designed caused 600 deaths.

    He has a road named after him in Santa Monica (Mulholland Drive).

    I doubt the building in New Zealand was designed solely by the fake engineer. He probably had enough qualifications to "fool" his coworkers even if he didn't have the degree.

    Likewise, Mulholland has a road named after him, not because of the dam collapse, but because of the water projects he successfully completed prior to the dam collapse.
  13. Sep 15, 2012 #12


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    Exactly, assuming it can be shown the building had an incompetent design.
  14. Sep 15, 2012 #13


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    There are two parts to a building - the design and the construction.

    There are standards for design and separate standards for the construction, which includes the materials and the process.

    The design specifies the materials, but it is up to the contractor and construction supervisor to ensure that the material is correct and suitable, and that the materials are properly handled and processed at the construction site.

    The engineer in question did not design the building, but he had responsibility in construction oversight. He is not alone, but then the fact that he was an imposter may increase his culpability.

    The critical issues are:

    1. Was the design flawed or in violation of standards
    2. Was the construction flawed or in violation of standard

    Then there is the matter of whether or not the deficiencies were due to negligence or intentionl (as in cutting corners or deliberately using inferior materials or process).
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