Icepak coolstore "bomb" in waiting

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A refrigeration company has been accused of creating a bomb at the Icepak coolstores at Tamahere that killed one firefighter and seriously injured seven others in April 2008.

The company, Mobile Refrigeration Specialists, is being sentenced in the Hamilton District Court this week along with coolstores owner, Icepak, and its managing director Wayne Grattan.

All three – Grattan and the two companies – have pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

The Department of Labour told the court the Fire Service did not know the coolstore was using a highly explosive propane gas HyChill -50.

The department says if the firefighters had known, they would have approached the coolstore differently.

The seven injured firefighters were in court for the sentencing along with Milli Lovell, wife of Derek Lovell who died in the April 5, 2008 blast.

In its closing submission, the Department of Labour said the extent of breaches committed by Mobile Refrigeration Specialists was enormous. It was highly foreseeable that the complex would explode at some stage and it was an accident waiting to happen.

It says the company deliberately and blatantly ignored warning signs of potential problems with nearly half a tonne of the highly flammable gas in the plant, and it was never able to meet safety requirements.

The blast and fire at Tamahere was New Zealand’s worst industrial accident, the department said.

The sentencing before Judge Robert Spear has been adjourned and will resume on Tuesday (December 15) morning.

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