NZSKI will be sentenced in the Queenstown District Court
by Judge David Holderness this morning after yesterday
admitting a breach of the Health and Safety in Employment Act
1992, relating to an incident in August last year.
The company had previously denied failing to ensure no hazard
that arose in the place of work, namely a fall from height,
harmed people in the place with its express intent and who
had paid to undertake an activity there.
The company faces a maximum penalty of $250,000. Counsel
Glenn Jones will this morning submit a $40,000 fine would be
an appropriate starting point.
A second charge of failing to ensure all practicable steps to
ensure no action or inaction of any employee harmed any other
person was withdrawn.
The charges were laid by the Ministry of Business, Innovation
and Employment following a six-month investigation after two
foot passengers - granted permanent name suppression - on the
Coronet Express chairlift, at Coronet Peak, were injured
after falling, or jumping, from the chairlift on August 2,
A defended hearing began in October and was to have been
Crown prosecutor Michael Morris, acting on instructions, said
an elderly couple had bought tickets to take a scenic ride up
the chairlift, as foot passengers.
They were to disembark at the top for sightseeing before
travelling back down the mountain on the chairlift.
''Neither had ridden a chairlift before and it was the first
time [the male victim] had touched snow.''
The ''ticket checker'' that day, Mattheus Formgren, let the
couple through and showed them where to proceed to load the
chairlift, but did not explain how to use it.
The lift operator supervisor was David Hunt, responsible for
loading passengers on to the chairlift.
After explaining how to get on to the chairlift and ensuring
the bar was lowered, Mr Hunt phoned the lift operator at the
top of the chairlift, Tara Wade, alerting her to the foot
passengers and suggesting she may need to slow the chairlift
when they disembarked ''as they were older''.
He also gave her the number of the chair the couple were on.
''When [the couple] approached the top, they did not raise
the bar and unload on the dismount ramp, as they did not know
what they were supposed to do or where they were to get off.
''Eventually, they raised the bar and then they fell or
jumped off the chairlift when the chair had turned almost 90
degrees around the bull wheel ...''
They fell from more than 1m to the ground, landing on ''large
chunks of ice''.
Ms Wade had been sweeping snow, was not standing beside the
controls and did not slow or stop the chairlift.
The impact caused the female victim to receive a pilon
fracture of her left ankle, with breaks of the left tibia and
fibula around the ankle joint. She required surgery to
stabilise the fractures with plates and ''faces a long
rehabilitation before she can walk again''.
She was also likely to have a ''permanent, noticeable limp''.
Mr Morris said the male victim received a laceration on his
knee and he aggravated an existing shoulder injury, rupturing
his rotator cuff.
''The defendant's representative said that it was the ticket
checker's responsibility to inform foot passengers how to
load and unload [and] its employees are verbally informed at
an induction training that they are to `stay close to the
buttons' when passengers are unloading.
''The defendant had a written policy that it was `down to the
judgement' of the top operator as to whether a foot passenger
would need the lift slowed or stopped to unload.''