The refrigeration company at the centre of the fatal Icepak Coolstore blaze in Tamahere in 2008 has appealed its sentence.
Mobile Refrigeration Specialists was fined $56,200 and ordered to pay $175,000 to the firefighting victims and their families when it was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court on December 15.
That sentence is now on hold, effective December 24, due to the appeal – a move which has infuriated the firefighters.
Injured firefighter Merv Neil, who is still recovering from burns to 70 per cent of his body, said the appeal was a “slap in the face”, reported the Waikato Times.
“It’s just laughable. It’s an absolute joke that they’re appealing … it’s all about money, everything’s about money to that crew.”
Fellow injured firefighter Alvan Walker, who returned to work last year, said he was “extremely disappointed”. The appeal was a cruel blow because the firefighters had felt they could start the new year afresh.
“I did feel like we had a bit of closure and we were ready to move on but it’s hard when it comes beating back on your door again. It’s not about the money, it’s about the closure.”
Mr Walker said the appeal also had made the firefighters uneasy about whether Icepak Coolstores would appeal its sentence, too. Icepak Coolstores was fined $37,200 and ordered to pay $95,000 reparation to the victims. The company’s managing director, Wayne Grattan, was fined $30,000.
A letter from the Hamilton District Court sent to affected people, states Mobile Refrigeration has either “appealed or requested a rehearing”.
“This means the court will not be collecting any further reparation payment. It could remain unchanged or the amount could be reduced or increased, it could be cancelled or it could be replaced by an alternative sentence.”
Warren Cook, the Tauranga-based director of Mobile Refrigeration Specialists, declined to comment when approached by the Waikato Times, saying his lawyer was handling the matter.
In court last month Mr Cook’s counsel, Marc Corlett, said the company accepted it had failed to comply with the required safety standards.
Mobile Refrigeration Specialists was effectively a one-man band operated by Mr Cook and was “wiped out financially” as a result of the accident, Mr Corlett said. The company was able to pay reparation because of its insurance cover, although any fine was likely to tip the company into liquidation.
Company Office records show that Warren Cook registered a new company, Benson Aircon NZ Ltd, on November 30 this year. Cook is one of two director/shareholders along with Ella Marlene Van Eden, wife of Icepak Group chairman Jan J van Eden. Update: Click the following link Cook’s new Aircon for more.