Charges over Taranaki climbing tragedy

Last updated 12:35 07/02/2013
paritutu stand
Three people died after falling into the sea during a Topec-run traverse of Paritutu rock.

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Charges have been laid against the Taranaki Outdoor Pursuits and Education Centre (Topec) in relation to three deaths in August's Paritutu tragedy.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Health and Safety Group said it laid four charges in New Plymouth District Court today alleging Topec failed in its safety obligations to its employees and students.

Instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42, and Spotswood College students Felipe Melo, of Brazil, and Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye, both 17, were swept off Paritutu Rock and drowned on August 8 during a Topec-led traverse in bad weather conditions.

The centre is charged with:

* failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employee Bryce Jourdain;

* failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that a volunteer instructor from Germany was not exposed to hazards of high and powerful seas in his place of work;

* failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that no action or inaction of its employee while at work harmed any other person;

* as a person who controlled a place of work failing to take all practicable steps to ensure that no hazard that arose in the place of work - high and powerful seas - harmed people who were in the place with its express consent and who had paid to undertake an activity there.

On the morning of August 19, Melo's body was found in the water intake of the Contact Energy power station near Port Taranaki.

Kahukaka-Gedye and Jourdain have not been found, but have been farewelled with public memorials.

Police carried out  a separate investigation in December last year which resulted in no charges being laid against any of the parties involved.

At the time, Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Coward said there had been no evidence of criminality.

Topec also has an independent party conducting an internal investigation.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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