Chairlift injuries cost NZSki $75k

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 12:46 17/12/2013

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A woman who may need her leg amputated after falling from a Coronet Peak chairlift has been awarded $35,000 in compensation.

Judge David Holderness, in a written decision, also awarded $12,500 to her injured partner and fined NZSki $27,000.

Overall, the incident has cost the company $75,000.

The company was convicted this month after pleading guilty to a health and safety charge following the incident last year, when the Auckland couple, who were foot passengers, fell at the upper Coronet Express lift station.

The names of the victims were suppressed but in an impact statement, the woman said her injuries were horrific and her leg was shattered.

Surgeons told her she may need a below-the-knee amputation.

"My injuries are so difficult to cope with. I will never gain full use of my leg. Every day is a challenge. The accident has caused devastating major life changes for us," the statement says.

"Life is so sad, our future plans are now shattered."

Her partner suffered profoundly, including an aggravated shoulder injury and the aftermath of living with someone with significant injuries.

Judge Holderness said there was a marked dispute as to the degree of concern and remorse communicated by the company.

''However, I am satisfied ... that contact was at least attempted on a number of occasions. Furthermore I accept that there were constraints on the propriety of the company making contact once the investigation into the accident was under way.''

He said the victim impact statements made for sad reading and the consequences were life-changing.

''(Every) day remains challenging for her with a substantial loss of her ability to enjoy life as she did previously. To a marked extent, her life has been blighted since the accident.''

NZSki submitted the incident was caused by a single lapse of judgment, a one-off instance of human error by a junior employee.

The company admitted a Health and Safety in Employment Act charge of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure no hazards arose, namely a fall from height, and harmed people who had paid to undertake an activity.

A summary of facts said the three lift operators on August 2 last year were Tara Wade, who was at the upper station, Kjell Mattheus Formgren and David Hunt.

The couple had not been on a chairlift before and it was the first time on snow for the man.

Hunt was the supervisor responsible for loading people on to the lift. He explained how to get on and ensured a safety bar was lowered.

He phoned the top lift station and told Wade that foot passengers were on their way and they may need the chairlift slowed when disembarking because they were older.

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When the couple arrived at the top, they did not raise the bar and unload because they did not know what they were supposed to do or where to get off. Wade, who had been sweeping snow, was not at the controls on the chairlift mast beside the dismount ramp and did not slow or stop the chairlift.

The couple fell more than 1 metre and landed on large chunks of ice.

- The Southland Times

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