New Zealand’s workplace regulator has filed charges against 13 parties following an investigation into a volcanic eruption on White Island in 2019 that killed 22 people.
A surprise eruption on the White Island, also known by its Maori name Whakaari, killed 22 people on December 9 last year and injured dozens.
The majority of them were tourists from countries such as Australia, the United States and Malaysia which were part of a cruise ship traveling around New Zealand. There were 47 people on the island when the volcano erupted.
Worksafe, New Zealand’s premier workplace accident watchdog, said at a news conference that investigations showed that 13 parties had failed to meet their health and safety obligations when taking tourists to the White Island.
“This was an unexpected event, but it does not mean that it was unpredictable and that there is an obligation for operators to protect them in their care.” said WorkSafe CEO Phil Parkes.
Worksafe has prosecuted ten organizations under the Health and Safety at Work Act for each fine that carries a maximum fine of NZ 1.5 million (USD 1.06 million).
Three people were accused as board members or people who were obliged to exercise caution to ensure that the company fulfills its health and safety obligations. These fees each have a maximum fine of $ 300,000.
WorkSafe did not mention the accused as they may request repression in their first appearance in court on 15 December.
The agency said it had not investigated rescue and recovery after the outbreak, as it is the subject of a coronary investigation underway.
At the time of the eruption, questions were asked as to why people were allowed on the island, a popular destination for day travelers, as there was reportedly an increased risk of an eruption.