In 2019, 22 people died on the volcanic island: the three brothers who own it and three tourism companies are to blame
The process of ascertaining responsibility for the deaths of 22 people on December 9, 2019 during the eruption of the White Island volcano (Whakaari, in the Maori language), located on the island of the same name, in Auckland, New Zealand, began on Tuesday, a well-known tourist attraction in the northeast of the New Zealand archipelago, off the coast of Wakatani. There were 47 people on the island that day, mostly tourists, some New Zealanders and other foreigners: 25 were seriously injured, in many cases from severe burns.
The investigation leading to the trial was one of the largest and most complex ever conducted in the country by WorkSafe, the New Zealand government body that deals with occupational health and safety, and is expected to last four months. The largest courtroom in Auckland was set aside for the trial, and a screen was set up at Whakatane Courthouse for all persons interested in testifying.
Among those accused of ignoring volcano eruption warnings and safety standards are the island’s three owners, who belong to the Patel family, and three tourism organizations. In fact, White Island is one of the few remaining private islands in New Zealand and has belonged to the Patel family since 1936. Brothers Andrew, James and Peter Patel inherited the island and own equal shares of Whakaari Management, which manages the island access concessions granted to tour operators and they in turn Among the defendants in this process. The other two companies accused of tourism are ID New Zealand and Tauranga Tourism.
Initially, ten organizations were charged, but six pleaded guilty and charges were dropped for one. The three remaining organizations and the three owners of the island are accused of failing to assess the risks, failing to adequately inform tourists of the risks and failing to provide protective equipment.
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