New Zealand charges 13 parties over White Island deaths, injuries

A New Zealand watchdog has filed charges against 13 parties over the death of 22 people during a volcanic eruption on White Island last year.

In a statement on Monday, WorkSafe said its year-long inquiry found that 10 organisations and three individuals had failed to meet their health and safety obligations by taking tourists to the active volcano, also known as Whakaari in Maori.

A New Zealand watchdog has filed charges against 13 parties over the death of 22 people during a volcanic eruption on White Island last year.

In a statement on Monday, WorkSafe said its year-long inquiry found that 10 organisations and three individuals had failed to meet their health and safety obligations by taking tourists to the active volcano, also known as Whakaari in Maori.

“This tragedy has had a wide-ranging impact on victims, families, communities and iwi … Those who went to the island, did so with the reasonable expectation that there were appropriate systems in place to ensure they made it home healthy and safe.”

The regulator said all the names of the parties involved were being withheld but said the 10 organisations each faced fines of up to 1.5 million New Zealand dollars ($1.1m), with individuals facing maximum fines of $300,000 New Zealand dollars ($211,026).

Among them was a Rotorua-based helicopter company called Volcanic Air, according to the New Zealand Herald newspaper.

The coroner’s office is conducting a separate investigation that will examine whether criminal charges such as manslaughter should be laid.

Meredith Dallow, who lost her twin brother, Gavin, in the tragedy told the New Zealand Herald that she was “quite pleased” with the charges.

“It does give us some relief especially as we come close to the 12-month anniversary,” she was quoted as saying. However, she said there would be no closure until the court cases and the coroner’s inquest came to an end.Broadcaster TVNZ reported that the court cases will begin in Auckland on December 15.

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