05:40 pm, Friday 26 October, 2007
A VICTORIAN tourist chairlift operator has been fined $110,000 over a crash that crushed a woman’s legs.
Tri Thi Le was on the ride on the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne, with several family members on March 18, 2004, when her chair slid down the rope into the one in front.
Her legs were crushed so badly they needed pins inserted.
The company’s lawyer had told the Victorian County Court there was evidence the chair which came loose was sabotaged.
But Judge David Parsons today ruled it was more likely the grips holding the chair had become loose because of inadequate maintenance.
Mrs Le’s son Dung Van Ma had told the court they were on the ride for only 10 to 15 minutes when the chair began to give way, dropping quickly as they passed a pole.
“I started screaming. I didn’t have enough time to look after my mum,” according to his statement, which was read to the court.
WorkSafe alleged Arthurs Seat Scenic Chairlift Pty Ltd failed to adequately maintain the chairlift by checking the tightness of the bolts in the grip holding the chair to the rope.
The company, which pleaded guilty to breaking safety laws, admitted it did not undertake its maintenance schedule in March, but denied this resulted in the crash.
The defence argued the chair could have been sabotaged as witnesses had told police they saw a person climbing on one of the chair canopies the day before the crash.
Judge Parsons fined the company $110,000 over failing to ensure its patrons were not exposed to risk, a charge that carries a maximum $250,000 penalty.
He said it was significant there had been a similar slippage incident four years earlier.
Judge Parsons said the public had a right to expect the chairlift operator adhered to rigorous safety guidelines.