Talley's payout for 'freak' death of crewman brings closure to family

Cain Adams died when he fell through an insecure hatch on a Talley's vessel in 2012.
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Cain Adams died when he fell through an insecure hatch on a Talley's vessel in 2012.

Devrik Adams wore his "pride and joy" to the Nelson courthouse.

It was a red hooded jumper with an image of his father emblazoned in the middle.

"In loving memory," it read.

The photo is always with the 18-year-old. He was in court to represent his family - his four siblings and his mother who have been dealing with the death of Cain Adams, nicknamed "Gee".  Almost three years ago he fell through an insecure hatch while working on a Talley's fishing vessel in Nelson port.

His mother Aroha Lawrence was too upset to attend.

"She is not emotionally strong enough," he said. She can't cope with it at the moment.

He said his father was "happy and bubbly" and his death had left a void. "It's come a long way since the beginning. It's been a struggle. Just grieving. It's the closure that really counts."

Talley's Group was ordered to pay more than $80,000 in fines and reparations after failing to ensure the safety of Adams almost three years ago.

Talley's was convicted last month under the Health and Safety in Employment Act. The 33-year-old Adams died after falling 6.9 metres through an insecure hatch on the deck of Talley's tuna boat Captain M J Souza on May 12, 2012. He and Aroha were together for 17 years and were due to be married a week later.

The charge was brought by Maritime New Zealand.

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*Talley's to pay reparations for death of crewman

At the sentencing on Wednesday Mill said that all practicable steps to ensure the hatch was safe were not taken. No other similar incidents had been recorded, but the incident was still "foreseeable and foreseen". It was probable that the hatch was made insecure by independent contractors working on the vessel while it was docked in Nelson.

"Had [the hatch] been guarded by rails the contractor could not have easily been able to reach the hatch...the accident would not have happened."

Mill said while the accident was not the result of a "cavalier" approach to Health and Safety there was still culpability. He fined Talley's $48,000.

"The fishing industry is a high risk industry...a fall from height is a well known risk."

Adams would have been married a week later to his partner Aroha and left behind five children.

"Nothing I do today will compensate you or your family for what has happened to your father," Judge Mill told Devrik. "I hope this will bring an ending at least to some parts of what has happened."

Talley's had paid the family almost $54,000 since the accident including to fly crew members to Adams' tangi which the company also helped pay for. Judge Mill said he took the sensitive way Talley's had dealt with the family into account. He awarded Aroha a further $35,000 in reparations.

Lawyer Jonathan Eaton, acting for Talley's, said while the company took "moral responsibility" for Adams' death there was a question as to its legal responsibility. He described the accident as "freak" with a unique set of facts leading up to it. While the company pleaded not guilty to the charge it had still acted responsibly.

"[Talley's] has taken measures to ensure it never happens again."

Lawyer acting for Maritime New Zealand Ian Murray said Talley's did not accept that they had done anything wrong.

"That is the key foundation stone of remorse."

Talley's Nelson division chief executive Tony Hazlett said the company wanted to convey its deepest sympathy to the family.

"This has been a long process and our thoughts are with them and we hope that some closure is now possible for them."

Devrik Adams hoped the family could move on. He said the company had been good to them. The other workers on the vessel had been like a second family to him.

"He loved it."

Devrik too had worked for them for the past three years.

 - Stuff

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