1 Dec 2020

Whakaari/White Island rescuer says charges 'add to the anguish'

From Morning Report, 7:18 am on 1 December 2020

A man involved in the rescue operation on Whakaari/White Island says charges being laid over the tragedy only add to the anguish of those involved.

Pilot John Funnell was on Whakaari on the day of the eruption.

No direct communications were possible between the island and the mainland, so he flew overhead and relayed messages between the helicopter crews landing and Air Traffic Control in Tauranga so that emergency care could be organised.

He told Morning Report charges, which were announced on Monday, will not bring back those killed in the eruption.

"At the end of the day is it going to give anyone any satisfaction by bringing charges against them having to defend it?" he said.

"I think it just adds to the anguish, to be quite honest."

Twenty-two people died after being caught up in the eruption on Whakaari in December 2019. Dozens more were injured.

WorkSafe announced on Monday 13 charges will be laid over the event, White Island Tours, GNS Science and the National Emergency Management Agency have all confirmed they are facing charges.