New Zealand Government Files Charges Over Deadly White Island Volcanic Eruption That Killed 22

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Last year a deadly volcanic eruption on White Island claimed 22 lives and the government this week has filed safety violation charges claiming 10 organizations and three individuals irresponsibly brought tourists to the active site.

Last year a deadly volcanic eruption in New Zealand claimed 22 lives, and the government this week has filed safety violation charges alleging that several organizations irresponsibly brought tourists to the active site, according to reports. Despite the unanticipated arrival of the eruption, the government alleges the devastation wasn't a surprise, according to a statement released by WorkSafe, the government arm tasked with investigating workplace incidents.

“22 people have lost their lives in this tragic event. WorkSafe is tasked with investigating workplace incidents to determine whether those with health and safety responsibilities met them," WorkSafe Chief Executive Phil Parkes wrote in a statement. "This was an unexpected event, but that does not mean it was unforeseeable and there is a duty on operators to protect those in their care."

A total of 47 people were on White Island on Dec. 9 when the volcano erupted. Every person on the island was injured and burned and nearly half died.

Charges are being brought against 10 organizations and three people for failing to follow health and safety rules. The names of the organizations are not being publicly released.

"Those who went to the island did so with the reasonable expectation that there were appropriate systems in place to ensure they made it home healthy and safe,” Parkes said.

Among those on the island included nine Americans, 24 Australians and tourists from other countries including China, Malaysia, Germany, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, NPR reported.

The charges were filed in Auckland District Court. The charges against the 10 organizations carry a maximum fine of $1.5 million. The three individuals charged could face smaller fines of up to $300,000, the agency said.