Whakaari/White Island eruption: The companies and government agencies facing charges over the deadly excursion

Half the organisations facing charges over the deadly Whakaari/White Island eruption that claimed 22 lives have come forward, forgoing name suppression ahead of the first court appearance.

WorkSafe NZ has laid criminal charges against 10 organisations and three individuals following the catastrophic eruption on December 9 last year.

Forty-seven people were on the island when the volcano erupted, claiming the lives of 14 Australians, five Americans, one German and two New Zealanders.

Most of the dead and injured were day-trippers from the visiting Ovation of the Seas cruise ship.

WorkSafe investigators allege the 13 parties did not meet their health and safety obligations in taking tourists to the island.

Since yesterday’s announcement, two government agencies and three organisations have come forward saying they will be facing charges.

When WorkSafe chief executive Phil Parkes announced the pending court action he elected not to reveal the identities in case name suppression was sought.

But yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed both GNS Science and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were among the 10 charged over the tragedy.

GNS, which monitors volcanic activity, had raised the alert level for White Island in the weeks leading up to the eruption.

Last night a defiant GNS Science said: “We stand by our people and our science.”

The owners of Whakaari/White Island have also confirmed they are among those charged over the eruption disaster.

The island is owned by the Buttle family, through Whakaari Management Limited and its three directors, James, Peter and Andrew Buttle.

Whakaari Management Limited granted licences to the operators that undertook tours to the volcano island.

Their lawyer said they had been charged but had yet to receive specific details.

Ngāti Awa Holdings, which owns White Island Tours, is also facing two charges.

The tour company ferried the ill-fated day-trippers to the volcano 52km off the Bay of Plenty coast and also lost two guides in the eruption.

“White Island Tours Ltd has been charged with two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. No employees or directors of the company have been charged,” said chairman Paul Quinn.

“As the legal process is ongoing we will not be making any further comment at this time.”

Quinn added that at the time of the eruption, the iwi expressed their heartfelt condolences to the families in New Zealand and abroad that lost loved ones.

One helicopter tour company has come forward saying it is facing legal action.

Volcanic Air pilot and director Tim Barrow said the company was not sure of the nature of the charges it was facing but once notified would take time to seek legal advice.

All those facing charges are due to appear in the Auckland District Court on December 15.

Various legal action is set to be lodged overseas, with injured tourists pursuing claims against the cruise line and New Zealand tour company ID Tours in the United States and Australia.

Injured newlyweds Matthew and Lauren Urey are suing Royal Caribbean for negligence, claiming the cruising company had ample warning the volcano was on the brink of erupting but did not take steps to warn passengers signed up for the crater excursion.

Local tour management company ID Tours is listed as a co-defendant in the action, which was to be lodged in the Miami District Court in the US.

The Royal Caribbean cruise line is facing legal action in Australia.

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