Icepak’s apology for the April 5, 2008 fatal explosion at its Tamahere site was met with an icy response from the surviving firefighter victims.
The two statements are reproduced in full below.
Icepak Coolstores managing director Wayne Grattan read the following statement in the Hamilton District Court during yesterday’s sentencing.
My name is Wayne Desmond Grattan and I am presenting this statement on behalf of myself and Icepak Coolstores Limited.
I am the managing director of Icepak Coolstores Limited and in that role I accept responsibility for the actions of the company. Today I want to publicly acknowledge the guilty pleas to the charges that have been brought by the Department of Labour … and to receive the sentence handed down by the court.
We, being Icepak Coolstores Ltd, and I personally, accept responsibility for what happened at our Tamahere premises on the 5th of April 2008.
We accept that mistakes were made in the design and operation of our coolstore plant and that if they were not (made) the accident, fatality and injuries to the firefighters who attended a callout to our site would have not have occurred.
We deeply regret the death of Derek Lovell and the injuries to Adrian Brown, Alvan Walker, Brian Halford, Cameron Grylls, David Beanland, Dennis Wells and Mervyn Neil.
I want to apologise personally and on behalf of Icepak to them and their families for their loss, injuries and suffering. We did not operate our business at Tamahere with an understanding that we were exposing people to such risks.
On the contrary we were proud of our coolstore and safety record and thought we were doing the right things by using environmentally friendly refrigerants, and that our plant was both safe and compliant with the law.
The accident and tragedy showed that we were wrong….
We accept that reparation should be paid for those who have suffered loss and injury and that while our losses have also been significant we will endeavour to abide by any decision made by this court with regards to reparation orders.
We recognise that such payments will never compensate for the loss of a life or the injuries suffered. Again I apologise for the losses and injuries and sincerely hope that recovery and healing continue for all involved.
The following statement was made by fireman Dennis Wells on behalf of his seven colleagues outside court yesterday.
We all feel very deeply the loss of our mate Derek Lovell. The loss of Derek still haunts us all.
As fire officers we appreciate there are risks involved in what we do. When we see a burning building we can make calculated decisions putting our own safety at risk if required. This case, however, did not present any discernible risk at all. It was a routine call out with no apparent sign of danger.
What we did not know was that the highly flammable gas propane had been introduced to this site in massive quantities.
Icepak had not advised the Fire Service of this, nor in all of their failings (sic) did Icepak put any measures in place to advise visitors to the site that flammable gas was present.
Even though there had been a substantial leak of up to 80 kilos of gas a few months before April 5, 2008, there were no signs suggesting any danger.
As a consequence we walked into a building that was a ticking time bomb. When the negligently placed exposed electrical circuit sparked and ignited the gas our lives and those of our families changed forever.
Had Icepak paid adequate attention to safety in the same way they do to generating profit and minimising their liability Derek would still be alive and we would not have suffered as we have, and some continue to do.
Icepak Coolstores is a 100 per cent owned subsidiary of the larger Icepak Group. That corporate structure has significant clout and we heard over the past few days it is a major player in the coolstore business.
Yet Icepak Coolstores claimed it has limited ability to pay reparation because as the smaller operation it has no money.
Legally that may be so. But the Icepak Group who owns the site and associated companies had the means to make more meaningful offers of reparation. They chose to hide behind the corporate veil claiming they can offer no more than they have.
For us fire officers, this was never about money. We just did our duty. For Icepak and its directors we feel it always has been about money. Their profit before safety approach is reinforced in the directors’ stance in limiting their offer for appropriate reparation.
This makes the apology by a company director today in court unconvincing and designed more to save face and lessen their own punishment than it is for the benefit of the victims.
(Dennis Wells pic by Mark Taylor, Waikato Times)