White Island tour operators fined
06.03.2024 New Zealand   14
White Island tour operators fined

Tour operators, booking agents and private owners organizing tours to the Isle of Wight/Whakaari, 50 km from the North Island, New Zealand, 9 December 2019 - the day a volcano exploded on the island, killing 22 people and injuring 25 - were fined approximately US$13 million by a Wellington court on Friday 1 March.

In 2020, 13 individuals and companies were charged with failing to implement sufficient health and safety measures. Several parties either pleaded guilty or had charges dropped.

A “judges only” trial began last July to prosecute those responsible for tours to the island. According to dependent.co.uk, Whakaari Management Ltd. (WML), the holding company of the island's owners, a boat operator and three other companies that operated helicopter tours to the island were found guilty of several safety violations.

“It is impossible to measure the emotional harm that survivors and victims have suffered families have endured and will continue to endure,” Judge Evangelos Thomas said in sentencing. "Damages in such a case may be no more than a symbolic acknowledgment of the harm caused."

During last week's hearing, Justice Thomas noted that Andrew James and Peter Battle, owners of WML, "appear to have made significant profits" from island tours despite having no bank account or assets.

After the verdict, White Island Tours, which was fined NDZ500,000, told nzherald.com that its insurance will cover this amount and that the verdict could mean the end of the tour operator.

“This amount will be paid immediately, of course within the next 21 days or so, to the Ministry of Justice, which is tasked with managing the collection and payment of compensation victims," ​​said Richard Raymond, a lawyer for White Island Tours.

Whakaari remains closed to the public.

White Island is actually the pinnacle of a large an underwater volcano rising 1,600 meters above the seabed.

A coroner's inquest into the incident will be launched next year to look at aspects of the disaster such as the search and rescue operation, the availability of sufficient treatment facilities and the role of New Zealand regulators Worksafe, which conducted a safety audit during the operator tour and allowed the tours to continue.

Source: travelnews.co.za

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