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Sentencing begins in New Zealand’s White Island volcano tragedy

Sentencing commenced in the Environment Court of New Zealand on Monday of tour operators and the owners of White Island where a volcanic eruption in December 2019 killed 22 people and left many with horrific burns.

Passengers from Ovation of the Seas were on a day trip to the island when the volcano erupted and the first victim impact statements were heard in the Auckland court on Monday. Sentencing is expected to last for two weeks.

Six parties are being sentenced for health and safety breaches before the eruption.

They are GNS Science (Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences), which has pleaded guilty to one charge brought by WorkSAFE New Zealand, and tour companies White Island Tours, Volcanic Air Safaris, Aerius Limited and Kahu New Zealand, that have each pleaded guilty to two charges.

Island’s owners

Whakaari Management Limited, that manages the island on behalf of its owners, James, Peter and Andrew Buttle, was found guilty of one charge after a lengthy trial last year.

The companies being sentenced face fines of up to NZ$1.5m.