Topec charged over Paritutu

02:11, Feb 07 2013
paritutu1 stand
Topec faces charges over its involvement in the tragedy at Paritutu that left three people dead and these Spotswood College students stranded.

Topec has been charged over the August 2012 Paritutu Rock tragedy in which three people died.

Spotswood College students Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Felipe Melo, both 17, and their Topec instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42, were swept out to sea on August 8 while climbing around Paritutu rock.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Health and Safety Group laid four charges in the New Plymouth District Court today.

The centre is charged with failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employee Bryce Jourdain; failing to ensure that a volunteer instructor from Germany was not exposed to hazards of high and powerful seas at work; failing to ensure that no action or inaction of its employee while at work harmed any other person; and that no hazard that arose in the place of work - high and powerful seas - harmed people who were in the place with express consent and who had paid to undertake an activity there.

Spotswood College principal Mark Bowden said it was a relief the school was not facing charges, but the community continues to grieve.

"As you will appreciate the whole tragedy is extremely raw and today just reignites that rawness."


He said he thought charges being laid was only the beginning of the healing process.

"Our thoughts and energies continue to be with the friends and families of those lost last year."

If found guilty Topec is facing a maximum penalty of $250,000 for each of the three charges laid under sections 6, 15 and 16 and another $500,000 for a charge under section 50 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Four years ago six Elim Christian School students and a teacher on a Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre (OPC) course drowned while canyoning in the Mangatepopo Gorge.

OPC's mistakes cost it $480,000 in fines and reparation to families of the victims and survivors of the tragedy.