Whakaari eruption: Flight operator pleads guilty to health and safety charges


One of the 13 defendants accused of health and safety breaches in the lead up to the deadly Whakaari eruption has pleaded guilty and ordered to pay more than a quarter of a million dollars.

A view of Whakaari/White Island from the air as a helicopter approaches.

A view of Whakaari/White Island from the air as a helicopter approaches. Photo: Supplied/Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust

Inflite – a scenic flight operator based in Auckland – pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court today.

Judge Evangelos Thomas fined the company $227,500 and ordered it to pay prosecution costs of $40,000.

Inflite lawyer Alistair Darroch told the court the guilty plea was an acknowledgement it did not do everything it should have to ensure the safety of its clients.

There were 47 people on the volcano when it erupted in December 2019, most of them international tourists.

Twenty-two people were killed and many others were seriously injured.

The others charged were: the island’s owner Whakaari Management Limited and its directors Andrew, James and Peter Buttle; GNS Science; the National Emergency Management Agency; White Island Tours Limited; Volcanic Air Safaris Limited; Aerius Limited; Kahu NZ Limited; I D Tours New Zealand Limited; and Tauranga Tourism Services Limited.

The remaining 12 defendants have all pleaded not guilty and a four-month trial has been set to start in July 2023.

The charges do not relate to events on the day of the eruption, or the rescue efforts.

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