29 Nov 2018

No criminal charges over fatal Mt Ruapehu bus crash

8:51 pm on 29 November 2018

Police are not laying criminal charges following the Mt Ruapehu bus crash that killed an 11-year-old girl in July.

The bus is still on its side and a salvage team will work to remove it.

The Ruapehu Alpine Lifts bus was on its side after an accident on 28 July. Photo: RNZ / Gia Garrick

Aucklander Hannah Francis died and 18 others were injured when a 14-year-old bus carrying 31 people flipped onto its side near Tūroa on 28 July.

Police said they have completed their investigation and no charges would be laid.

Hannah's father, Matthew Francis, was also injured in the crash, breaking his scapula and multiple ribs.

The family in a statement, released on their behalf by police in September, spoke of the grief they were going through after the tragedy.

"We are taking baby steps each day to try to learn how to carry this grief with us. It will never ever go away, the loss of Hannah is very real," her mother Michelle Bruton said.

"This loss, as we are beginning to realise, is insurmountable. Hannah was the sunshine in every day."

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts chief executive Ross Copland said the company was doing all it could to prevent a repeat of July's crash.

Mr Copland said the company had already made changes to its bus fleet, with six new buses delivered. Those buses are all four-wheel drive, have reversing cameras and have seatbelts fitted.

It was important companies like RAL did more than simply meet the minimum standards, Mr Copland said.

"When you're looking at the type of operating environment we're working in, those minimum standards just don't apply."

An internal investigation was ongoing, Mr Copland said.

The company has been in touch with Hannah's family, but Mr Copland wouldn't say if he had offered an apology, because the family has requested privacy.

Aleisha Cope, who was on the bus with her partner on the day of the accident, said five or ten minutes down the road there was a loud noise and other passengers started asking the driver if the brakes had failed, as the bus swerved all over the road before crashing.

Coming to a bridge, with a corner in the road she thought the bus would go over the side of the bridge, but it made it across and rolled and crashed.

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