CentrePort charged over death of worker

By Brendan Manning

CentrePort in Wellington. File photo / Mark Mitchell
CentrePort in Wellington. File photo / Mark Mitchell

CentrePort has been charged over the death of a staff member who died in a warehouse accident at the Wellington port in January.

Titahi Bay man and father-of-three Mark Samoa, 47, died after being caught between a forklift and cargo in a warehouse on January 20.

Mr Samoa was working inside because rain had forced the team to stop loading cargo on a ship.

CentrePort confirmed it had been charged but neither it nor the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would say what the charge was.

CentrePort acting chief executive Nick Wareham said staff were deeply affected by the death of the popular staff member and the impact on his family.

The company had co-operated fully with MBIE's investigation, which resulted in charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

It had also carried out its own detailed internal investigation into the accident, Mr Wareham said.

"The company continues to support Mark's family."

A spokesman for the Government's labour group said MBIE had concluded its investigation and the charge would be heard at Wellington District Court in August.

Maritime Union Wellington assistant secretary John Whiting said he had previously worked with Mr Samoa and described him as a "respected and well regarded fellow worker".

"We've still got lots of members working at CentrePort and health and safety is always our concern. That's ongoing."

Mr Samoa's death "knocked everyone around" at the time, Mr Whiting said.

"Because of the nature of the work and the hours and the demands of all-weather work, you're fairly closely tied to each other."

At the time of the incident, Mike Clark from the Maritime Union said Mr Samoa had worked at the port for nine years and was part of a small team of permanent staff.

"When it's one of your own it's a very difficult time."

The site was blessed before workers returned to finish loading the vessels.

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Other incidents at CentrePort:

* May 18, 2012: An argon gas container leaked when it was damaged by another container being loaded. Emergency services rushed to the port as the gas could be absorbed into the body by inhalation, and was a serious suffocation risk in confined areas.

* March 31, 2011: A shipping container, with a car inside, exploded while being fumigated. There was nothing suspicious about the blast and nobody was injured.

* May 20, 2003: A worker was critically injured when his leg was crushed by a shipping container. The man, an employee of Centreport subsidiary Central Stevedoring, was giving instructions to a crane operator on board the Pacific Quest at Aotea Quay when he was struck by the container.

- APNZ

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