Tree Adventures fined over fatal fall

By Jimmy Ellingham

Clifford Paul Brabet, 57, died after he fell at Tree Adventures in Woodhill Forest near Helensville in March last year.
Clifford Paul Brabet, 57, died after he fell at Tree Adventures in Woodhill Forest near Helensville in March last year.

The company responsible for a high ropes adventure course where an Auckland man plunged to his death has today been fined $24,500 and ordered to pay the man's family $80,000 reparation.

Clifford Paul Brabet, 57, fell almost 14 metres while taking part in a team-building day at Tree Adventures in Woodhill Forest near Helensville in March last year.

He fell to his death just days before the company was to change its procedures, a move that would have saved him.

In the Waitakere District Court, Tree Adventures was sentenced on one charge of breaching the Health and Safety in Employment Act by failing to take all steps to ensure a hazard didn't harm Mr Brabet.

The company pleaded guilty to the charge.

Outside court, company representatives handed a statement to media.

"Firstly I would like to reiterate that throughout this entire investigation process our heartfelt condolences and thoughts have continued to be with Mr Brabet's family and friends.

We hope that the resolution of this investigation can offer them some small closure," the statement said.

The company had always regarded the safety of its visitors as its "number one priority" and since Mr Brabet's death it had introduced new equipment called "Clic-it".

"The loss of Mr Brabet's life has a profound impact on my life and the lives of all Tree Adventures staff, and would not be open today if we did not believe we had taken all practicable steps to prevent incidents of serious harm from occurring in the future."

Mr Brabet's wife Elizabeth Feyter was also doing the course and saw what happened, two days before Mr Brabet's 58th birthday.

She told APNZ earlier today she would like to see steps put in place so no other family suffered similar tragedy.

"We are a great outdoor pursuits nation and we hear about hot air ballooning and all these other outdoorsy accidents happening and I don't know what sorts of things they've got in place," said Ms Feyter.

"I'd like some sort of regulation if that's what it takes...

"At the end of the day I do hope something good happens out of it, something positive," she said.

"It can't happen again. I don't understand why it hasn't happened before because they weren't using the equipment as per the manufacturer's instructions.

"Does a normal man in the street know that when they go into the park?"

Ms Feyter said Tree Adventures gave an induction, but she wondered what people about to attempt an adventure course could do if what they were told was wrong.

Judge Jane Ferrish told the court Ms Feyter suffered significant psychological, financial and emotional impacts from Mr Brabet's death.

"The devastating loss was exacerbated by her witnessing the very tragic events of March 3," the judge said.

"She said she lost a friend, companion, father figure and husband".

The company's lawyer Peter Hunt said Tree Adventures regretted what happened and had since taken a "responsible approach" and invested in safer systems. It closed the park for a month after Mr Brabet's death and co-operated with investigators.

However, the business was now struggling.

"It's trading in a deficit and it's really just getting by."

The judge said that was understandable following what happened, but it had now reached the "gold standard" in safety.

Mr Brabet grew up in Auckland and worked as a computer and IT network administrator.

- APNZ

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