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Charges laid after fatal Weka Pass crash that killed popular boat skipper

Two Christchurch companies have been charged under health and safety legislation after a trailer allegedly came off a work van and smashed into another vehicle, killing an Akaroa boat captain.

Julian Bruins Yates, 52, a skipper for Black Cat Cruises, died on October 23 last year in a three-vehicle crash on Weka Pass Rd in Hurunui.

Father-of-two Yates died at the scene.

“Julian was a colourful character, he had been a part of the Black Cat team for 10 years,” Black Cat Cruises chief executive Paul Milligan told the Herald after the tragedy, saying his staff had been left devastated.

Now, WorkSafe has laid charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 against ABC Aluminium Limited and Ultimate Design and Renovation Limited based in Halswell.

Charging documents at Christchurch District Court today allege that the two Christchurch companies, which share a workplace address, and having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons, including Julian Bruins Yates, is “not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking” failed to comply, exposing “individuals to a risk of death or serious injury”.

WorkSafe claims it had been “reasonably practicable” for the companies to have had an “effective safe system of work to ensure the safe connection of trailers to vehicles” and ensured its workers had adequate information, training, instruction, supervision and experience necessary to safely use vehicles and trailers.

The charges carry a maximum fine of $1.5 million.

The companies’ first appearance has been adjourned and they will appear in court on February 22 next year.

Yates was the “face and voice” of the company’s Akaroa Harbour cruise since 2011. Being out on the water in nature was “his happy place,” said Milligan.

He estimated about 100,000 guests over the past decade had been on a cruise with Yates.

“He was definitely a big personality and someone who will be dearly missed,” said Milligan.

“Akaroa is a small town and Julian had involvement with a lot of things and the whole community is feeling it.”

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