Volcano tourism disaster trial, White Island owners hear profit over safety | White Island volcano

Tourists at New Zealand’s volcano Whakaari/White Island were not given any health and safety information ahead of the deadly eruption, prosecutors said on the opening day of a landmark trial on the disaster. claimed.

In a day-long opening speech, prosecutor Kirsty MacDonald accused the island’s owners of prioritizing profit over safety.

When Whakhari erupted on December 9, 2019, 22 people, mostly tourists, died from severe burns and blast injuries, and many of the 25 survivors were injured.

The island’s owner and his company are one of six defendants facing a lengthy trial on charges related to health and safety deficiencies, which they have pleaded not guilty to. The judge-only trial follows the most extensive and complex investigation ever undertaken by New Zealand’s Labor Inspectorate, in which several other companies responsible for visitors to the island have already filed charges against them. admit the accusation.

In his opening speech, McDonald described the area that was populated when the volcano erupted as “the center of the crater.” Two weeks before the deadly eruption, experts monitoring its seismic activity raised the volcanic alert level to 2, indicating “moderate to high volcanic unrest”.

McDonald said the last eruption in 2016 came without warning and said the volcano was unpredictable and unstable. She said the island owners, Andrew, James and Peter Battle, were unaware of the risks, had no health and safety procedures, and held tour operators responsible for charging annual license fees and per-customer fees. He claimed that he tried to pass it on.

“Profit should not take precedence over safety,” she said in a summary of the lawsuit against the owner.

The three brothers, along with their companies Whakaari Management Limited, ID Tours New Zealand and Tauranga Tourism Services, have been criminally charged by Worksafe, New Zealand’s workplace safety regulator, for violating workplace safety laws. ing.

Organizations can be fined up to NZ$1.5 million and individuals can be fined up to NZ$300,000.

Worksafe alleges that Andrew, James, Peter Battle and Whakhari Management Limited (WML) “failed to obtain expert advice on how WML could safely conduct guided tours of Whakhari.” are doing.

McDonald’s has accused ID Tours New Zealand and Tauranga Tourism Service of failing to provide customers with adequate warning and protection against a potential eruption.

Helmets were provided and were mandatory, but no other protective clothing was provided. Many of the visitors were seen wearing T-shirts and shorts when overalls and sturdy boots made of heat-resistant material should be worn. Gas masks were provided, but they were often not fit for purpose, McDonald said.

Defense attorneys said the health and safety of the people on the island was the responsibility of others, not the client.

In 2020, for the first time, WorkSafe prosecuted 13 groups it deemed to be failing to meet its obligations under the Health and Safety Act. Since then, six parties have pleaded guilty. One had the charges dropped.

The Battle family acquired Whakari/White Island in 1936. The island is New Zealand’s only privately owned volcano and New Zealand’s most active volcano.

Trial begins Monday Mihi Wakatau, a Maori welcome ceremony at the court. Condolences were offered to the grieving families and survivors, some of whom returned to New Zealand as witnesses.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jul/11/volcano-tourist-disaster-trial-hears-white-island-owners-put-profits-before-safety Volcano tourism disaster trial, White Island owners hear profit over safety | White Island volcano

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