During the trial against the island’s owners and tour operators, new images of tourists were shown on the white island of Whakaari during the 2019 eruption that killed 22 people.
The video was filmed by one of the 18 closest tourists and guides to the crater of the active volcano in northern New Zealand, just seconds before it erupted on December 9, 2019.
The short clip begins with the group pulling out their phones to take photos of a gray cloud of steam and ash that had erupted from the volcano.
While the tourists were in awe, one of the tour guides immediately realized the danger the group was in and started yelling, ‘Come on guys, follow me.’ Come on!’
An American tourist joined in and began telling the group to ‘move, move, move’.
Footage filmed by a tourist near the volcanic crater on the white island of Whakaari when it erupted was shown to the court on Tuesday (pictured, tourists take photos of the eruption before being told to “run”).
Panic ensued and the group began to flee the crater and hide behind large rocks in the hope of saving themselves as the cloud spread, exposing them to temperatures of up to 100°C.
Of the 47 people on the island, 22 died, including 17 Australians.
Krystal Browitt was the first confirmed Australian dead in the eruption.
Her father, Paul, later died of his injuries, while her sister, Stephanie Browitt, was left badly burned and shared her difficult recovery online.
Most of the island’s visitors came from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship that had docked in the nearby city of Tauranga.
Tuesday marked the first day of WorkSafe New Zealand’s criminal trial against various parties involved in organizing tours on the island.
This includes the island’s owners, brothers Andrew, James and Peter Buttle. The volcano has been owned by his family since 1936.
The brothers’ company, Whakaari Management Ltd (WML), is also in court with WorkSafe lawyer Kristy McDonald, alleging that its operations failed to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA).
Heartbreaking images show the group of tourists fleeing the crater as volcanic ash spreads (above)
The volcano on the white island of Whakaari erupted on December 9, 2019, killing 22 people, including 17 Australians (circled, visitors fleeing the volcanic ash cloud)
WML sold exclusivity agreements to companies to conduct tours on the island.
WorkSafe accused WML of prioritizing profit over safety and failing to adequately inform tourists about the risks of visiting the volcano.
Worse still, he claims that the brothers and WML did not have an effective evacuation plan and ruled out an opportunity for the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences to conduct a risk assessment of the grounds.
“The limited things that WML did in terms of infrastructure fell short of their duty to ensure that there was a proper mechanism for evacuation,” Ms McDonald told the court, the New Zealand Herald reports.
‘Gain should never come before security.’
Tauranga Tourism Services Ltd and ID Tours New Zealand Ltd were an important part of the ‘supply chain’ of travel to the island, including from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship.
McDonald’s alleged that the companies failed to warn tourists about the dangers of visiting the volcano.
At the time of the eruption, the volcano was under a level two volcanic alert, defined as “moderate to elevated disturbances.” The highest level is five.
A guide was heard telling one of the island’s visitors about the alert on the day of the eruption.
Tuesday marked the first day of WorkSafe New Zealand’s criminal trial against various parties involved in running tours on the island (pictured, WorkSafe lawyer Kristy McDonald)
The island’s owners, brothers Andrew (left), James and Peter Buttle (right) face criminal charges
“The higher the level, the greater the risk of an eruption,” the guide said as the group walked toward the crater.
We’re at level two, approaching level three now.
Ms McDonald said ‘cancellations’ and ‘billing information’ were successfully given to visitors, but ‘ssecurity information was not given the same attention.’
“The point is not that the information received was inadequate,” he said.
“Those passengers did not receive any information in terms of volcanic activity.”
Ms. McDonald claims that several Ovation passengers said they would not have visited the island if they had understood the risks.
The trial is expected to last 16 weeks. Multiple parties have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
WHO IS WORKSAFE NEW ZEALAND SUING?
- YoyesLand Owners: Andrew Buttle, James Buttle and Peter Buttle
- Whakaari Limited Management
- ID Tours New Zealand
- Tauranga Tourist Services
- Inflite Charters (pleaded guilty)
- Volcanic Air Safaris Limited (pleaded guilty)
- Aerius Limited (pleaded guilty)
- Kahu NZ Limited (pleaded guilty)
- White Island Tours (pleaded guilty)
- GNS Science (pleaded guilty)
- National Emergency Management Agency (charge dismissed)