White Island victims share impact statements, defendant's lawyer calls for inquiry

White Island.
White Island. Photo credit: GNS Science

Families wept in court on Tuesday as the victims of the Whakaari White Island eruption were remembered.  

On that fateful day, 22 people lost their lives and 25 were injured.   

Judge Evangelos Thomas also acknowledged those who responded to the emergency, including first responders, hospitals, nurses, those involved in rescue and recovery and many others.  

Judge Thomas acknowledged "everyone who has given so much of themselves at the time and in the years to come to help people".   

"Many of those have suffered greatly. Some never returned to work."  

The court fell silent when the judge recognised those who died.  

Barbara Whitehouse lost her sister Julie and niece Jessica Richards.  

"We miss them every day they are not with us," she said.   

"They were taken from us too young. They both loved life so much, mother and daughter. Best friends."   

Avey Woods, the mother of Hayden Marshall-Inman, was the last to give a statement.  

"Hayds has been my rock forever," she said.   

"There are no more huge gentle bearhugs with my head tucked under his chin and him saying 'love you mum'."  

As with others, the disaster split her family.  

"Immediately after the loss of Hayds, my relationship with my oldest son perished and my relationship with my older daughter diminished which leaves me in a triple loss state."   

To measure Woods' and many others' immense loss, there is a cold hard mathematical equation for cash, in the form of reparations.   

WorkSafe argues it should be top dollar, using the words of one of the relatives.  

"The making of economic profit from a powerful highly dangerous natural hazard comes with huge responsibility," they said.  

The reparations pot is small at just $5.3 million so WorkSafe is suggesting a maximum baseline payout of $110,000, an extra $25,000 for those who lost a loved one and $100,000 for the dependent children of the three couples who lost their lives.   

WorkSafe said the island's owners Whakaari Management Limited (WML) bear the most responsibility for the tragedy.   

However, WML's lawyer is calling for a wide-ranging inquiry into who should have known about the risks, and who's accountable.  

First, the judge must decide the sentences arising from this court case.