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Cave Creek tragedy remembered

Friends and families were gathering at Punakaiki and Tai Poutini Polytechnic today to remember the 10th anniversary of the Cave Creek tragedy.

Thirteen students from the Greymouth polytechnic and one Department of Conservation officer died when the viewing platform they and three others were standing on fell 30m into a gully.

Families, former and current staff and students were invited to the polytechnic, where flowers will be laid in a special memorial garden.

There will also be a ceremony at Punakaiki, co-ordinated by the Department of Conservation, at which a book of remembrance will be presented to victims' families.

DoC was due to hold two minute's silence to remember the victims.

Andrew McCarthy, of Runanga, whose 17-year old daughter Kathy died in the incident, said he was regularly reminded of it.

But he said it was important to mark the anniversary.

"With the anniversary, at least I know it's coming ... and it's a good opportunity to meet the families. It will be a strange union of people with different views, some will want to prosecute to hell but not I," he said.

A commission of inquiry into the platform collapse by Christchurch District Court judge Graeme Noble concluded it would be "quite inappropriate to point the finger of blame at any one of the individuals".

His November 1995 report said the main cause of the collapse was that the platform was not built in accordance with sound building practice, which happened "against the background of an underfunded and under-resourced department ..."

Families of the victims received a total of $2.6 million compensation from the Crown.

Mr McCarthy said the lessons had been learnt from the tragedy, "almost over learnt", and there was no point dwelling on the past.

"I think it was a great shame that Cave Creek has been used as an excuse by the bureaucrats to over-regulate our lives," he said.

"It was a collective loss of common sense that caused the tragedy, it just happens, it's all part of life."

- nzpa, HERALD ONLINE STAFF

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