Lovell inquest to start Sept 5


The Hamilton Coroner’s inquest into the death of fireman Derek Lovell at Icepak Coolstores at Tamahere is scheduled for a week starting on Monday, September 5.

It will focus on avoiding deaths in similar circumstances in the future.

Senior Station Officer Lovell died and seven other officers were seriously injured when leaking gas ignited while they were investigating an automatic fire alarm at the coolstore on April 5, 2008.

Coroner Gordon Matenga set the date for the inquest in a minute issued today following a pre-inquest conference last month which identified the issues for an inquest and those with an interest in it.

There was little dispute over the cause of the fire and the explosion that claimed Mr Lovell’s life and there would be no need to hear from the firemen that attended it, the coroner said.

Mr Matenga said he would hear from Icepak directors Wayne Grattan and Iain Slight, Mobile Refrigeration Specialists (MRS) director Warren Cook, electrical inspector Brian Liddell, and receive statements taken by police who looked at laying criminal charges following the explosion.

The Police decided against a criminal prosecution, instead leaving it to the Department of Labour to prosecute Icepak, MRS and company directors under the Health and Safety in Employment Act (HSE).

An agreed summary of facts from the successfully prosecuted HSE case will also be part of the inquest evidence along with extensive reports prepared by the Labour Department and the Fire Service and their expert witnesses.

The Labour Department also offered to commission and provide a report from the refrigeration industry on the use and safety of refrigeration plants in New Zealand that are similar to those at Tamahere.

Mr Matenga also ruled that Tamahere resident Philippa Stevenson may appear at the inquest and cross examine witnesses if she chooses.

Icepak lawyer Murray Branch had sought to exclude Stevenson from the proceedings.

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