By Rebecca Borg, News.com.au
Shocking footage of the White Island eruption shows the moment cruise ship tourists watched the volcano erupt.
The majority of the victims of the December 2019 disaster were passengers on board the Ovation of the Seas who traveled to the island as part of a tour group.
The video shows a group of about 18 passengers and guides in hard hats standing on an elevated part of the island gasping in awe as grey steam emerges from the top of Whakaari’s crater.
Guides could be heard screaming “Run, run” and “Come on follow me” as others hid behind large rocks in the hope of saving themselves.
Meanwhile, a woman was captured tripping onto her knees as the rest of the group sprinted ahead of her.
Most of the tourists never stood a chance, with just three of the 25 people on the island surviving.
Tuesday marked the first day of an anticipated 16-week trial, with the video one of many to be released after being recovered from victims‘ devices.
At the time, the island sat at Volcanic Alert level two which is defined as a “moderate to heightened unrest”.
This fact was disclosed in another piece of footage shared at the hearing.
“We’re at level two, nearing level three now.”
It’s understood level three is categorized as a “minor volcanic eruption,” with the highest rating level five meaning there’s a chance of seeing a major volcanic eruption, according to GeoNet.
Acting for WorkSafe, lawyer Kristy McDonald KC said they failed to take adequate steps to prevent serious injury or death, with some of the group already pleading guilty to other charges and awaiting sentencing.
Brothers Andrew, James, and Peter Buttle jointly own the island which has been passed down in their family since 1936, with their company Whakaari Management Ltd (WML) also on trial.
“The businesses making their money from tours on to the volcano had clear duties under HSWA,” Ms McDonald said.
“They failed to comply with those duties, and the end result was that tourists and workers went to the crater of an active volcano without being advised properly of the risk.”
On behalf of WorkSafe, Ms. McDonald added the brothers and the company failed to properly assess the risk the volcano posed to tourists venturing to the island, with few evacuation measures in place for such traumatic events.
“The limited things WML did in terms of infrastructure fell well short of their duty to ensure there was an adequate mechanism for evacuation,” Ms McDonald said.
“Profit should never come before safety,” she added, noting the company made an annual profit of $1 million.
Also facing trial are businesses Tauranga Tourism Services Ltd and ID Tours New Zealand LTD, which had exclusivity agreements to operate tours on Whakaari.
Ms McDonald said these businesses in addition to WML failed their duty to inform guests of the risks of visiting the island.
“Information regarding cancellations due to weather or information for invoicing purposes passed through the supply chain successfully. Safety information was not given the same attention,” she said.
“The case is not that the information received was inadequate. Those passengers did not receive any information in terms of volcanic activity.”
It’s anticipated more evidence will be shared as the trial continues for the next four months.