Sydney, Australia, Oct 31 (EFE).- A New Zealand court on Tuesday found the company managing the offshore Whakaari/White Island guilty of breaching workplace health and safety laws in relation to the 2019 disaster.
Mourners follow the hearse as it leaves a memorial service for White Island volcano victims Anthony, Elizabeth and Winona Langford, at Marist College North Shore auditorium in Sydney, Australia, 30 December 2019. EFE-EPA FILE/BIANCA DE MARCHI AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Whakaari erupted on Dec. 9, 2019, while 47 people – mostly tourists – were visiting the island, killing 22 and injuring 25.
After a lengthy trial that began in July, an Auckland District Court judge on Tuesday ruled that Whakaari Management Ltd (WML), owned by brothers Andrew, James and Peter Buttle, had failed to meet its safety obligations to volcano visitors.
Judge Evangelos Thomas ruled that WML’s failure to comply with section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 exposed people to a risk of serious injury or death, according to the hearing followed virtually by EFE.
The judge said WML, which manages tourist access but not tours to the island that has been in the Buttle family since 1936, had not obtained the necessary expert advice on risks and health and safety.
“Had WML complied with its duty and obtained the necessary expert advice on risk and health and safety, it would have fully understood the risk,” the ruling said.
“It should have been no surprise, particularly after the 27 April 2016 eruption, that Whakaari could erupt at any time and without warning, with the risk of death or serious injury to tourists or tour guides who may be there at that time,” the ruling also said.
A second charge against WML was dismissed.
Thirteen parties were initially charged over the volcanic disaster. Six pleaded guilty and another six had their charges dismissed, including those of the three Buttle brothers as individuals.
WML was the final verdict and the sentencing for all guilty parties will take place in February.
The parties face a maximum fine of NZ$1.5 million ($874,00). EFE