23 May 2024

Sincere Standtrue's Gloriavale inquest: Sister of man who died says leader did not want WorkSafe notified

8:22 pm on 23 May 2024
An inquest into the death of a 20-year-old Gloriavale man is underway in Greymouth. Sincere Standtrue died in Christchurch Hospital in November 2018, the eldest in his family of 11 siblings.

Sincere Standtrue died in Christchurch Hospital in November 2018. He was the eldest in his family of 11 siblings. Photo: Supplied / Gloriavale

A sister of Gloriavale man Sincere Standtrue says a community leader told her family just hours after after he was found unresponsive that he did not want WorkSafe involved.

Rose Standtrue has given evidence at the Greymouth inquest into the 20-year-old's death in Christchurch Hospital's intensive care unit, 10 days after he was discovered unresponsive in Gloriavale's paint shop in 2018.

Among the issues Coroner Alexandra Cunninghame was exploring was whether his death was an accident or self-inflicted.

The last time Rose saw her brother Sincere was on the afternoon of 23 October, 2018 - the day he was found.

It was around lunch time and he was out on the back porch talking to someone else, she told the court.

"I was going to go say hello but of course I was too busy in the kitchen. I will always regret not going and saying hi to him then because that would've been the last time I saw him alive," Rose said.

A few hours later, she received a phone call in the kitchen saying something had happened to Sincere.

Rose ran to her family's hostel where she found her aunt who did not know what had happened.

"By this time I'm just imagining the worst, that maybe he had cut himself really badly [while working] ... I didn't know what to expect, I was terrified," she said.

Rose then went to the paint shop, where her brother worked, to try find him.

"He was lying on the ground outside where he had been working and a group of men were performing CPR on him.

"I just stood there crying, I didn't know what to do."

Inside the Gloriavale paint shop are shelves stacked with tinned paint, brushes, filing cabinets and drawers and a locked cabinet of aerosol paint.

Sincere Standtrue was found unresponsive in the community's paint shop where he worked on 23 October, 2018. Photo: Supplied by Coroner's Court/Sergeant Litherland

Within a few minutes, Sincere began breathing again and Rose went towards him.

"It just looked like he was asleep and he looked really peaceful," she said, crying in court.

He was taken to Greymouth Hospital by helicopter.

That same night, Rose recalled a senior Gloriavale leader then approached her parents and said "he did not want WorkSafe involved and that [Gloriavale] could not afford to be given a fine by WorkSafe".

"There was a general understanding among the community to avoid WorkSafe involvement as they did not want to incur fines," she said.

There had been other instances of people being injured at Gloriavale, particularly in the meal plant and on the dairy farms, Rose said, but she was unsure if they had been reported to WorkSafe.

Their family was also not allowed to say Sincere was in heaven at his funeral two weeks later, Rose told the court.

The same community leader told them he was in hell, she said, and it made her angry.

"It felt like the whole funeral was just about people giving their opinions about whether Sincere was in heaven or hell instead of remembering Sincere."

Earlier on Thursday, she told the court her brother was subject to beatings, bullying and isolation at the West Coast Christian community.

The inquest continues on Friday.

Rose was among six female plaintiffs who won a 2023 Employment Court case which ruled they were employees at Gloriavale, not volunteers, for the vast amount of work they did in the kitchen and laundry.

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