Updated. Carterton Ballooning Tragedy – Pilot Smoked Cannabis Before Flight


Tourists pay the ultimate price for lax regulation in NZ

Update: The British Broadcasting Corporation and the Times UK has also reported on this story, read the reports here New Zealand hot air balloon crash pilot ‘used cannabis’ (BBC) and Pilot in New Zealand air balloon disaster had smoked cannabis (Times)

A Transport Investigators’ report has revealed that the pilot in the Carterton Ballooning tragedy had smoked cannabis shortly before the flight and was a long standing user of the drug.

Investigators also released data that showed that at least thirty five people in New Zealand had died in accidents involving cannabis/alcohol use

“Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) said it had investigated six incidents in the past 10 years where people  had tested positive for performance-impairing substances. Thirty-five people had died in those accidents…” source Stuff.co.nz

The report has prompted families of the deceased to call for mandatory testing of all tour operators. The TAIC backed them up, saying there should be “more stringent laws around alcohol and drugs in the transport sector.”

In 2010 following the crash of a badly modified plane at Fox Glacier in which the pilot and eight parachutists died, two of the tandem jumpmasters tested positive for cannabis. Stuff also lists other accidents in which cannabis/alcohol use was a factor.

The report is likely to once again focus international attention on New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry and its abysmal safety record. Unfortunately, despite the high number of injuries and fatalities the NZ government backed off the type of stringent safety regulation operating in other countries, opting instead for a registration scheme and third party auditing that has only recently come into force.

“To people thinking of going to New Zealand on an adrenaline sport, think twice,” Chris Coker of Britain told the BBC last year. His son, Bradley Coker, 24, was one of nine people killed in a skydiving plane that crashed in 2010. Investigators found the plane was overloaded.” source CanadianBusiness.com

A week ago Topec, a school based outward bound centre, escaped penalty after it pleaded guilty to multiple health and safety charges following the drowning deaths of two students and an instructor. Instead, it was made to pay reparations to the families of the deceased. The incident bore remarkable similarities to another outward bound tragedy which occurred in 2008 – The Edmund Hilary Centre in Turangi, in which six students and a teacher drowned in the Mangatepopo canyon,  the centre was fined just NZ$44,000. Read our post Adventure Tourism Industry Safety from May 2009 for details. Back then we asked

Following the court case the Department of Labour urged the adventure tourism industry to look critically at its health and safety systems in light of the Mangatepopo canyon trekking tragedy. A lot should’ve been learned, but has it?

The answer, sadly, is no.

You may also be interested in:

Our Adventure Tourism And Safety in New Zealand Wiki

NZ workplace safety a ‘national disgrace’ – consultant (NZ Herald Jan 2013) “New Zealand’s health and safety record has been labelled as ‘woeful’ and a ‘national disgrace’ by a consultant with two decades’ experience in the sector…Robyn Levinge says New Zealand has never prioritised health and safety like it has with road safety, domestic violence and drink driving…”As a country, we have simply not given health and safety the priority it deserves at any level…”

One Way Ticket  (60 minutes TV,  Oct 2012) “Every year, thousands of young Australians fly off for a gap year adventure. Their travels take them all over the world, often to poor and dangerous places that make their mums and dads fret…But the world capital of adventure tourism can be a deadly place as Glenn (Bourke) and eight others so tragically discovered…”

New Zealand Adrenaline Nation (ABC News, Oct 2012) ”Not everyone walks away from an adventure tourism experience in New Zealand. Over the past eight years at least 50 visitors have died when things went dreadfully wrong. Many more have suffered crippling injuries…In a forensic examination of New Zealand’s adventure tourism industry and safety regime, correspondent Dominique Schwartz exposes significant flaws in regulation and safety awareness. She investigates the activities of a prominent ballooning operator with a troubling track record and hears evidence that NZ’s taxpayer-funded accident compensation scheme (ACC) may be enabling poor practice.”

One thought on “Updated. Carterton Ballooning Tragedy – Pilot Smoked Cannabis Before Flight

  1. Dope smoking in New Zealand and parts of Australia is common and done by middle-class people, professionals, parents, because it seems to be accepted down there in the way that people living in Amsterdam accept it. They seem to think it is not as bad as alcohol, crack, even tobacco smoking. The ones who are high don’t accept that they are high. They cannot tell they are even in an altered state. Makes the roads scary. And obviously, the skies too.

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