Charges have been filed against 13 parties over the deadly White Island volcanic eruption in New Zealand almost a year ago.
A total of 22 people died when the island’s volcano suddenly erupted.
There were 47 people on the island at the time, the majority on a cruise ship excursion.
New Zealand’s health and safety authority said it was unable to name any of the parties charged “as they have the right to seek name suppression” at their first appearance in court, expected on December 15.
WorkSafe New Zealand said: “The parties we have charged may choose to make themselves known. But to respect New Zealand law, WorkSafe cannot identify who these parties are at this time.”
The charges laid in Auckland District Court include ten organisations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, with each charge carrying a maximum fine of NZ $1.5 million ($1.06 million).
A further three have been charged as directors or individuals, accused of neglecting health and safety obligations, each carrying a maximum fine of NZ$300,000.
Of the 47 people on the island at the time of the incident of December 9 last year, 24 were from Australia, nine from the US, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two from China, two from the UK, and one from Malaysia.
The organisation will not release the investigation reports into each charged party until the conclusion of the legal process.
WorkSafe NZ added: “It is critical we respect the need to ensure the maintenance of the law, including the proper conduct of court proceedings.”
The authority said: “Twenty two people have lost their lives in this tragic event. WorkSafe is tasked with investigating workplace incidents to determine whether those with health and safety responsibilities met them.
“This was an unexpected event, but that does not mean it was unforeseeable and there is a duty on operators to protect those in their care.”
Chief executive Phil Parkes added: “We investigated whether those with any involvement in taking tourists to the island were meeting their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. We consider that these 13 parties did not meet those obligations.
“It is now up to the judicial system to determine whether they did or not. WorkSafe can’t comment on the matters in front of the court.
“There were 47 people on the island at the time of the eruption, all of whom suffered serious injuries and trauma, and 22 of those have lost their lives.
“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.
“That’s an expectation which goes to the heart of our health and safety culture.
“As a nation we need to look at this tragedy and ask if we are truly doing enough to ensure our mothers, fathers, children and friends come home to us healthy and safe at the end of each day.”
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