2 Oct 2014

Women, children stuck in bus doors

6:16 pm on 2 October 2014

A Wellington company has admitted a health and safety charge relating to several incidents in which passengers, including pregnant women and children, were trapped in bus doors.

Go Wellington buses

Photo: PHOTO NZ

Wellington City Transport Limited, which trades as Go Wellington and is a subsidiary of New Zealand Bus, pleaded guilty in the Wellington District Court to one charge of failing to take all practicable steps to prevent harm.

The charges were laid following eight incidents between May and August last year in which malfunctioning doors trapped passengers.

A police investigation found in the four-and-a-half years until May 2013, the bus doors were not checked sufficiently regularly, and there were not sufficient records of testing.

On 16 August 2013, New Zealand Bus was served with two Improvement Notices under the health and safety legislation.

Those notices outlined requirements for the company to take all practicable steps to stop people becoming trapped in doors.

The buses also had to be inspected to improve drivers' vision of the rear doors.

Judge Arthur Tompkins convicted the company and it will be sentenced next month. The maximum penalty it faces is a fine of not more than $250,000.

New Zealand Bus acting chief executive Tonia Haskell apologised to the public.

She said the health and safety of staff and passengers was an absolute priority and a comprehensive review of its maintenance programme has since been completed and improvements implemented.

The incidents:

  • 8 May: A pre-schooler was trapped by his leg while trying to leave a bus. A man travelling with him had to hold him up to stop him hitting the ground when the bus moved forward. Neither the man nor child were injured.
  • 31 May: The front doors of a bus closed on a 48-year-old man's leg, trapping him as the bus moved off. He was unable to free himself and was forced to hop alongside the moving bus with his foot still stuck in the door while trying to attract the driver's attention.
  • 10 June: A heavily pregnant 29-year-old woman was caught in the rear doors of a bus. She tried several times to pull herself free but the doors would not reopen.
  • 12 August: A 34-year-old woman's arm was caught in the rear doors of a bus as she disembarked. The arm was sore for a couple of hours but she suffered no permanent injury.
  • 12 August: A 25-year-old woman trying to leave a bus was trapped in the rear doors. She had one foot on the ground when the doors closed on her upper body and right arm. The bus began to move off while she was still trapped with one foot on the ground but she managed to pull herself free.
  • 14 August: A 34-year-old woman and her five-year-old daughter were caught in the rear doors. The woman reached out to try to stop the door closing but her elbow became caught.
  • 17 August: A 33-year-old woman was leaving a bus on Lambton Quay when the front doors closed, trapping her shoulders. She tried to get out but the doors closed further, catching her back and trapping her.
  • 23 August: A 31-year-old woman who was nine months pregnant and her three-year-old daughter, were trapped in the rear doors of a bus. The woman's shoulder and her daughter's hand were both jammed in the doors and they could not move backwards or forwards.