Mt Ruapehu bus crash: Police inspector now admits he would lay charges over child's death

A police inspector who decided not to lay charges over the death of an 11-year-old girl now says he's changed his mind. 

Hannah Francis died in 2018 when a bus lost control and crashed while taking passengers down Mount Ruapehu. 

Detective Inspector Neil Forlong chose two years ago not to charge anyone over Hannah’s death. But on Thursday, two tables of lawyers and Hannah's dad Matt Francis scrutinised why Forlong made that decision.

"Knowing then what you now know, would that recommendation be any different," Francis asked Forlong.

"Yes, it probably would be," he replied.

Francis was one of 30 other passengers also in the bus crash that killed Hannah.

Det Insp Forlong explained that the driver said an auxiliary switch was inadvertently flicked, which led it to lose control coming down the mountain.

If on, the switch drains a tank that holds air pressure for the brakes. Yet the bus was found with the switch off and air still in the tank.

"My assessment at that time was that there was a reasonable doubt," Forlong said.

But expert evidence to the court was that even if those brakes had failed, as the driver claimed, there's a secondary braking system. 

"The first time I heard that was this morning," Forlong said.

Legal advice to police at the time was not to prosecute.

Forlong said that wasn't a decision he came to lightly.

"It wasn't a decision that I was 100 percent comfortable with at any time, and if it's the wrong decision, I have no problem apologising to the family for that now, personally apologising for my mistake," he said.

The company that operated the bus, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, will give further evidence. 

"The bus is designed for a certain type of terrain and this particular terrain in this crash is not that kind of terrain," Senior Constable Chris Pelosi said.

The company had been running 10 or more trips a day until the crash in 2018.