A Coronet Peak chairlift operator who allegedly told an
Auckland couple to jump from the Coronet Express chairlift
last August had started a project on safely unloading foot
passengers less than two weeks before the incident.
NZSki faces two charges under the Health and Safety in
Employment Act 1992 in relation to the incident on August 2,
It has denied failing to take all practicable steps to ensure
no hazards arose, namely a fall from height, to people who
had paid to undertake an activity; and being an employer,
failing to take all practicable steps to ensure no action or
inaction of any employee harmed another person.
The charges were laid following a six-month investigation by
the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment after the
two foot passengers on the chairlift were injured as a result
of their fall.
At a taking of evidence hearing in the Queenstown District
Court before registrar Michelle Pankhurst yesterday, Coronet
Peak lift operations manager Cody Stake said all NZSki staff
employed to work on the chairlifts were trained in every
aspect of the operation, including how to deal with foot
passengers, or those who needed assistance.
Mr Stake, who had worked for NZSki since May 2010, having
previously worked at Keystone, Colorado, said all NZSki staff
participated in an induction day, before being separated into
departmental groups for more intensive training. Part of that
training required staff to complete two projects with a
choice of topics, including health and safety.
The top lift operator on August 2, Tara Wade, started a
project under the health and safety banner, titled ''Safe
unloading of foot passengers'', on August 20.
The ''ticket checker'' that day, Mathias Formgren, began a
''Foot passenger list awareness'' project on August 25.
Mr Stake said staff had different areas of responsibility at
different stations around the lift, but it was the ticket
checker's responsibility to ''profile'' guests, identify any
who may need additional assistance and talk them through the
loading and off-loading procedure.
The bottom chairlift operator loaded guests on to the
chairlift and, if they needed the lift to be slowed or
stopped, communicated that with the top chairlift operator.
The chairlift travelled normally at 4.2m per second and when
the chair got to the bullwheel it disengaged and went on to a
secondary line, at which point the chair slowed down to about
1m per second.
The top chairlift operator could slow the main haul line to
either 2.2m per second or 1m per second, which would then
slow the secondary line to half a metre per second or a
quarter of a metre per second.
The final option was to stop the main haul line altogether,
which would also stop the secondary line. Every option was
available to the top lift operator.
Slowing and stopping the chairlift was done with button
controls and staff were trained to be in ''easy reach'' of
those controls at all times, Mr Stake said.
While top lift operators had other tasks, for example
clearing snow from the exit ramp, or loading snow on to it,
Mr Stake said they were expected to ''multi-task'', and if
they had been alerted to foot passengers, the procedure was
for the staff member to ''focus their attention on that
''It is stated in the Lift Operations Manual that they can't
be more than 2m away from the controls.''
On August 2, the bottom lift operator was Dave Hunt, who told
the court yesterday he saw the couple approaching, went to
them and explained the load procedure before loading them on
to the chairlift.
He did not tell them about the off-load procedure as he
expected that would have been done by the ticket checker, who
was Mr Formgren.
Mr Hunt said he noted the couple's chair number and phoned Ms
Wade to alert her to their arrival.
He said he told Ms Wade the couple's chair number, informed
her they were an ''older couple and may need assistance, but
it was up to her judgement whether [to] slow the lift or stop
It has previously been reported the Aucklanders were on a
sightseeing trip and the lift operator allegedly told them to
jump after the chairlift went around the bullwheel.
The woman shattered a leg in four places after landing on
rocks, required two five-hour surgeries involving bone grafts
and spent four weeks in hospital.
The matter is next due to be called in the Queenstown
District Court on December 3.