An Auckland business owner has set up a scholarship to help train future young welders after an horrific workplace death.
Salter's Cartage owner Ron Salter told the Herald that while launching the new scheme at Huntly College today would be a sad occasion, it was also exciting to offer the scholarship to the school and hopes it will provide opportunities to those who otherwise may not get the chance.
Jamey Lee Bowring, who had lived in Huntly, was killed after the 100,000 fuel litre tank he was welding at the Auckland waste removal company exploded.
The explosion was so big it sent debris flying for nearly 100m and rocked buildings kilometres from the scene.
The Huntly College Practical Education Trust will distribute up to $7000 each year in the form of Salter's Cartage Engineering Scholarships to a student [or students] keen to gain a practical engineering qualification.
Salter said he didn't know Bowring was on the site the day of the accident and was unsure why he was welding, however he had taken full responsibility and pleaded guilty to a large number of charges laid by WorkSafe NZ under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE) and under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) and its regulations.
Salter was sitting in his office at the time. The force of the explosion blew out the windows.
It was something that he relived every day.
"It was the noise and then the percussion wave, one huge bang and then the shock wave blew all the windows out [in my office]. What we couldn't understand was, why? And to this day we still don't know what actually caused it and why he was welding."
Bowring got onto the site after offering to help his mother's partner, Trevor Ackers, carry out some maintenance work on the tanks. Bowring had taken a sick day from his usual job at GT Engineering.
Salter said he was baffled as to why Ackers was never charged by WorkSafe.
"It's incredible that Trevor has never been charged with anything yet he instructed him to do the welding. But on my site, I'm responsible and there's no two ways about that, even though I did not know, they say I should have known. [But Jamey] never reported to the office."
He said the family still blame him for what happened and didn't want their son's name associated with the scholarship.
Salter said he was disappointed not to have their support but hoped they might change their mind in the future.
"[Bowring's mother] felt that school had failed Jamey and I thought that because of that should I back out of it? But I thought for the better good of the people we should continue with it.
"It's sad to be going there but we believe it can do some good, long term.
"We thought why not teach them young and each year the new ones come through, I will try spend some time with them and teach them some life skills ... hopefully we can raise a few people above just living in Huntly and giving them better goals in life.
"We have to invest in the future. If we don't the kids will grow up dumb and where does that leave us later, so my hope is that other companies will pick up this initiative for the underprivileged so that we can get more trained."
Robert Tukiri, whose son attended Huntly College said that while the circumstances leading to the establishment of the scholarship were tragic, it would provide a new opportunity for students.
A Selection Panel made up of a Huntly College representative, the Director of the Trades Academy and community leader and member of Waikato-Tainui, Robert Tukiri will select the successful applicants.
Salter will appear for sentencing on the charges in the Manukau District Court at the end of the month.