Whakaari / White Island: Support for a petition demanding that the charges against rescue helicopter pilots be dropped

Destroyer helicopter covered in ash after a volcano erupted on the Isle of Wight on December 9, 2019.

Helicopter / Instagram page

Destroyer helicopter covered in ash after a volcano erupted on the Isle of Wight on December 9, 2019.

More than 69,000 people signed a petition calling for charges against the Wakari / White Island pilots involved in the rescue and recovery mission to be dropped.

The Change.org A petition has been launched in support of pilots, Mark Low, CEO of Kahu NZ, and Tim Barrow, Director and Chief Pilot of Volcanic Air Helicopters and Floatplanes.

The two men participated in the initial rescue effort following the December 9, 2019 eruption 22 people were killed.

By Saturday morning, more than 69,000 signatures had been secured, with more people showing their support every minute. In 90 minutes more than 3000 new signatures were added.

Read more:
* Raise funds to defend the pilot “who led the attack” in rescuing Whakaari
* Adventure tourism is under review again, what about the role of WorkSafe?
* GNS Science, White Island Tours is included in 13 WorkSafe trials on Whakaari / White Island
* WorkSafe investigators are requesting information from White Island Tours

The petition asks Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to acknowledge Law and Barrow’s extraordinary efforts, rather than letting WorkSafe charge them.

The description of the petition read: “These guys don’t deserve this treatment – as kiwis, we make things when the chips are running low.” “Let us defend these true heroes of Kiwi.”

Luo helped save five people from the island, Barrow gathered the last survivor. One person is reported to have died on board all the aircraft participating in the rescue mission.

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Thirteen parties have been charged by WorkSafe – 10 organizations and three individuals. GNS Science, White Island Tours, the National Emergency Management Agency (Civil Defense) and Volcanic Air have all confirmed they are among those facing charges.

Mark Low, CEO of Kahu NZ, rescued five people from Whakaari / White Island after it erupted in December, 2019.

Kristel Yardley / Staff

Mark Low, CEO of Kahu NZ, rescued five people from Whakaari / White Island after its December, 2019 eruption.

The WorkSafe investigation and subsequent charges relate to the period before the eruption, not the rescue and recovery options prior to the eruption.

“This was an unexpected event, but that doesn’t mean it was unexpected, and there is an obligation on operators to protect those in their care,” WorkSafe CEO Phil Parks said Monday.

Post-blast procedures may be subject to other procedures such as a coronary investigation.

Parks explained that the 13 parties accused did not fulfill their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work 2015 Act when taking tourists to the island.

“ As a nation, we need to look at this tragedy and ask whether we are really doing enough to ensure that our mothers, fathers, children and friends return to us at the end of each day in health and safety.

“It is now up to the judicial system to determine whether or not they did.”

Tim Barrow, Volcanic Air Safari director and chief pilot, helped transport the victims to safety after the explosion.

Domenico Zapata / Staff

Tim Barrow, Volcanic Air Safari director and chief pilot, helped transport the victims to safety after the explosion.

WorkSafe will not comment on the petition because the matter is in court.

Whakatāne Mayor Jody Turner considered it inappropriate to comment on the petition or charges due to court proceedings. She also indicated that full details of the WorkSafe report have not yet been released.

“I understand why they’re upset, and I totally understand that, but I think we need taihoa and just wait to see what it counts.”

Veteran pilot John Fonnel, who was also involved in rescue efforts on the island, is Raise money to help fund Law’s legal battle.

“The cost of defending these accusations is enormous, and the consequences will be greater if you do not defend them,” said Vonnell.

The serious accusations came as Law’s business, Kahu Helicopters, was close to collapsing.

“They shut down their airlifts because White Island was the bulk of their business, and of course they have no income in order to take on the challenge to make sure they get a fair hearing in court.”

Funnell was aware of the petition but did not follow up on it, however, he supports anything that could make life easier for those operators facing charges.

“The cost of defense is the biggest hurdle and this is where I tried to raise money.”

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