WorkSafe Blames Ruapehu Alpine Lifts and VTNZ for Turoa Bus Crash

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WorkSafe has accused the company of running the Turoa ski area and Vehicle Testing New Zealand following a bus crash that killed 11-year-old Hannah Francis, Aucklander.

File Image: The bus crash at the Turoa ski area in July 2018.
Photo: RNZ / Gia Garrick

Francis died and three other people were seriously injured when the bus’ brakes failed and it overturned halfway down the Ohakune mountain road in July 2018.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts was charged with two breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, while VTNZ was charged with technical aspects of its Certificate of Fitness certification process.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts general manager Jono Dean said he cooperated fully with the coroner’s inquest and the WorkSafe inquest.

“RAL has respected and accepted the coroner’s recommendations and has made significant changes to its transportation operations since this tragedy,” it said in a statement.

“At the time of the incident, RAL informed WorkSafe. It is unfortunate that WorkSafe (through an apparent breakdown in communication with NZ Police) did not investigate the accident at the time and that almost four years after the crash, charges have now been laid.”

Dean said the company was instrumental in developing the Alpine Code of Practice to reduce the risks of carrying passengers in alpine environments.

He said Waka Kotahi should adopt the code as a minimum standard in the alpine transport industry.

“It is RAL’s hope that this type of accident will never happen again,” Dean said.

“RAL sends its thoughts and sincere condolences to (Hannah’s family) on the loss of their daughter.”

VTNZ national manager Greg O’Connor said the company is looking into WorkSafe’s action.

“We were deeply saddened by the passing of Hannah Francis in 2018. As an industry, we owe it to Hannah Francis and her family to ensure that we learn from this tragedy and that it never happens again,” did he declare.

‘The coroner’s inquest into the accident found that VTNZ issues played no role in the fatal accident.’

The 119-page coroner’s report exposes driver Sung-Pil (Terry) Choi’s habit of not using his gears properly to hold up the bus – a habit that has not been corrected by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts.

WorkSafe has been contacted for comment.

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