NZSki enters guilty plea

Last updated 15:40 03/12/2013

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NZSki today entered a guilty plea to a health and safety charge after two walkers were badly injured in a fall from a chairlift.

The company appeared before Judge David Holderness in the Queenstown District Court.

In April, NZSki entered not guilty pleas to two charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act after an Auckland couple fell from the Coronet Express upper chairlift station on August 2 last year.

Charges, each carrying a maximum fine of $250,000, were laid following a six-month investigation by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment labour team.

NZSki today admitted 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A second charge was withdrawn.

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 male victim.

Formgren checked the tickets and showed them where to proceed to load onto the lift but did not explain how to use the chairlift.

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

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

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.

''Eventually they raised the bar and then they fell or jumped off the chairlift when the chair had almost turned ninety degrees around the bullwheel.''

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 a metre and landed on large chunks of ice. As they fell they tripped a safety gate and stopped the lift.

The female victim broke her ankle, fracturing the left tibula and fibula around the joint, needed surgery and is likely to have a permanent limp, the summary said.

Name suppression was previously granted for the victims.

Judge Holderness entered a conviction and remanded the case for sentencing tomorrow. He said the starting point for a fine was about $40,000.

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- © Fairfax NZ News


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