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Source: Worksafe New Zealand

Ritchies Transport Holdings was convicted and sentenced today in the Waitakere District Court following a Christmas Eve bus crash that left three people dead and many more injured.

The company was ordered to pay a fine of $210,000, and reparation to the families of the deceased and the passengers totalling $750,000, after one of its buses went through a barrier and fell 30 metres down a bank just south of Gisborne in 2016. The bus had been hired from Ritchies to transport a Tongan brass band who were travelling from Hamilton to Gisborne.

Two passengers died at the scene of the incident, and another died in hospital a few days later. Another passenger’s leg was amputated and some of the 50 surviving passengers suffered injuries including broken wrists, lacerations and bruising.

WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector Investigations Hayden Mander said WorkSafe opened a health and safety investigation after Police investigated the crash and found that Ritchies had not serviced the bus (which was overdue for a 5,000 km service) or done any other back up mechanical inspection on it before it departed from the depot. 

Ritchies had also failed to provide the driver with any guidance on what to do in the case of a fault developing – which was itself a breach of a Land Transport Rule.

“Ritchies should have ensured that there was an adequate and effective safe system of work so that arrangements for the hire of buses were safe and suitable. 

“This would have included verifying that the bus was in a safe and compliant operational condition before it was hired out and providing the driver with adequate information including clear instructions on what to do if a fault developed.”

Notes:

  • A fine of $210,000 was imposed.
  • Reparation of $750,000 was ordered.
  • Ritchies Transport Holdings Limited was sentenced under s 36(2), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
  • Being a PCBU, failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of other persons was not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking, namely bus transport services, and that failure exposed those persons to a risk of serious injuries arising from the dry hireage of a Nissan Service Coach.

S 48(2)(c) carries a maximum penalty of $1,500,000. In January 2018 the driver of the bus was sentenced to five-and-a-half month’s home detention, disqualified from driving and ordered to pay reparation after being charged by New Zealand Police in relation to the incident.MIL OSI