30 Jul 2018

Ruapehu bus passenger shocked by broken seats, handle

From Checkpoint, 5:12 pm on 30 July 2018

Photos taken inside a bus, understood to be operated by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, show seats tied up with wire and a handle which has fallen off the back of a passenger seat.

A girl died and three people were seriously injured when the Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) bus they were in, travelling down Ōhakune Mountain Road from the Tūroa skifield on Saturday, crashed.

Sophie Leather was a passenger on a different bus travelling between National Park and Whakapapa on Saturday.

She purchased tickets from the kiosk at National Park Village, which only sells tickets for RAL’s shuttle service.

She was so concerned about the state of it, she took photos.

“The chair in front of me was fully broken, not held up by wires and I was trying to hold that up with my feet,” she told John Campbell.

“A lady went to go brace herself and her child and just going around a small corner the entire handle came off the chair and so we were pretty horrified at that to be honest and all started talking about how dangerous it was, and then to see there was a crash that same day that was horrific.”

The visible safety issues made her question whether other buses operating in the same area were in a similar condition, and if that could have contributed to the crash.

“I’ve heard a lot of people discussing the situation that’s gone down and a lot of people are just initially trying to put the blame on the bus driver, but I feel that even if it was the bus driver’s fault the conditions of the safety in the bus could have changed the outcome drastically either way.”

RAL's chief executive Ross Copland and chairperson Murray Gribben have both refused to give an interview to Checkpoint, but Mr Copland told us by email he was looking into the situation.