New Zealand WorkSafe New Zealand charges 13 parties over White Island volcano eruption tragedy

WorkSafe New Zealand charges 13 parties over White Island volcano eruption tragedy

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A total 22 people died when the White Island volcano erupted in December 2019/ Photo: Twitter: Michael Schade
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WorkSafe New Zealand has filed charges against 13 parties over the White Island volcano tragedy in December last year.

The volcano erupted on December 9, when 47 people were on the island. Twenty-two of them died, including 17 Australians.

WorkSafe NZ said those charged could not be identified as they had the right to seek a suppression order on their names at their first court appearance on December 15.

Ten parties face charges which carry a maximum fine of $NZ1.5 million ($1.4 million) under New Zealand’s Health and Safety at Work Act.

“There are three individuals charged under section 44 of the act which requires directors, or individuals with significant influence of a company to exercise due diligence that the company is meeting its health and safety obligations under the act,” the statement said.

“Each charge carries a maximum fine of $NZ300,000.”

A preliminary hearing for the charges will be held on December 15 in the Auckland District Court.

“WorkSafe did not investigate the rescue and recovery of victims following the eruption,” the statement said.

“On those matters, no enforcement action has been taken. Those actions may be the subject of other proceedings, such as coronial inquest.”

White Island, or Whakaari, is located 48 kilometres off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

A group of 38 people from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship were on a day trip to White Island when the volcano erupted.

Many of the victims of the disaster died from their injuries in hospital months later and some survivors are still in rehabilitation.

The 22nd victim was a German man who died in a German hospital in July while receiving treatment for his injuries.

Nineteen people died in New Zealand while another two died in hospital in Australia.

WorkSafe NZ is expected to hold a press conference on Monday afternoon local time to give more details.

Melbourne woman Krystal Browitt was the first victim named. Photo: GoFundMe

Eruption destroyed entire families

The Australian victims included an entire Sydney family of four, as well as three out of four members of another Sydney family and a pair of high school sweethearts from Coffs Harbour.

Melbourne woman Krystal Browitt was the first Australian victim to be formally identified.

Her father Paul Browitt died in January at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital as a result of the injuries he suffered during the eruption. while her sister Stephanie survived with severe burns.

Mr Browitt’s wife Marie was on board the cruise ship and did not take part in the White Island tour with her husband and daughters.

Kristine and Anthony Langford, from Sydney, and their 17-year-old daughter Winona were all killed, while the Langford’s son Jesse survived the disaster.

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The Hollander family moved from Chicago to Australia five years before the tragedy. Photo: ABC News

The entire Hollander family, from Sydney, died.

Teenagers Matthew and Berend (also known as Ben) were both US citizens and Australian permanent residents, as was their mother Barbara. Their father Martin was an Australian citizen.

High school sweethearts Richard Elzer and Karla Mathews from Coffs Harbour also died.

Other victims included 15-year-old Zoe Hosking, and her stepfather Gavin Dallow, both from Adelaide, Brisbane woman Julie Richards, and her daughter Jessica, and Jason Griffiths, from Coffs Harbour.