Deadly White Island Volcano Eruption Leads to Charges

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Almost one year to the day after a deadly volcanic eruption killed 22 people on New Zealand’s White Island, the country’s workplace safety regulator has charged a number of organizations and individuals for their roles in the disaster.

In a televised address on Monday, Phil Parkes, the chief executive of the regulator, WorkSafe, said that the 13 parties — including organizations, government agencies and three individuals — had fallen short of their obligations and would face charges in court.

“This deeply tragic event was unexpected, but that does not mean it was unforeseeable, and there is a duty on operators to protect those in their care,” Mr. Parkes said. “The victims — both workers and visitors — all had a reasonable expectation that they could go to the island knowing that those organizations involved had done all they were required to do to look after their health and safety.”

The organizations face criminal charges with maximum fines of 1.5 million New Zealand dollars, about $1 million, while the three individuals face charges as officers of a company and maximum fines of about $210,000 for their roles in the disaster. The first hearing is scheduled for Dec. 15.

At the time of the eruption, tours were run under a deal between the family that owns the island and a few operators, falling under the jurisdiction of so-called adventure activities regulations that require a safety audit for companies that “deliberately expose the participant to a serious risk to his or her health and safety that must be managed by the provider of the activity.”

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