15 Oct 2008

Families want answers over canyoning tragedy

9:11 pm on 15 October 2008

The families of those killed while canyoning near Tongariro National Park say they are pleased the case is going to court.

Six students and their teacher from Elim Christian College in Auckland died on 15 April after the group was hit by a flash flood in the Mangetepopo Gorge in Tongariro National Park.

The Department of Labour is laying charges against the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre under health and safety laws.

Floyd Fernandes, 16, was one the students killed while water canyoning. His father, Francisco, says the families of the victims just want answers and an assurance it will not happen again.

Mr Fernandes says they cannot turn back time and bring his son back, but they can make sure the course is safe for others in future and all the families involved want this.

The centre's chairman, Rupert Wilson, says it will defend the charges, and has always taken pride in its safety standards.

The first hearing is likely to be in four to six weeks. If convicted, the centre faces a maximum fine of $750,000 and making compensation payments to the families of the victims and survivors.

Police are yet to hand their findings to the coroner, with an inquest not expected until next year.