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Families mark anniversary of Cave Creek tragedy

Families and West Coast community prepare mark the 10th anniversary of the Cave Creek tragedy

Families and the West Coast community are planning a private and low-key commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Cave Creek tragedy later this month.

Fourteen young people were killed on April 28, 1995 when the Department of Conservation (Dock) viewing platform collapsed.

Thirteen of the victims were members of the Tai Poutini Polytechnic outdoor education course. Four other students were on the platform and suffered a range of injuries. Five others with the group but were not on the platform when it gave way.

A spokesman for the victims’ families, Harry Pawsey, said only the families would make the trip down to the Cave Creek site in the Paparoa National Park on April 28.

He said families had asked if visitors and media would keep their distance while the family members visited the sad site.

A private and low key memorial service organised by DoC will be held at Punakaiki. The polytech would also meet families and friends during the day in Greymouth. A period of silence to honour the victims will be held on Thursday, April 28.

Pawsey said it was difficult to pass through the anniversary without the thinking about the disaster.

``Time has healed some scars but many families and friends will be grieving again as they remember this occasion," Pawsey said.

"Although 10 years have passed, the pain of that tragedy comes flooding back in waves during anniversary times like this," he said.

Tai Poutini Polytechnic chief executive Don Campbell said the platform tragedy was one of the blackest days in New Zealand’s history.

He said it deeply affected the lives not just of West Coasters – but of all New Zealanders. Most of the students were from other parts of the country so the tragedy touched many communities throughout the country.

``We will all be thinking of the Cave Creek tragedy especially more so on April 28. That one event took 13 students away from their families and friends.

``It had a profound affect and impact on everyone at the polytech and wider community but like the families we have moved on and got on with our lives.

``We are in an area of many outdoor facilities and we have had thousands of happy students pass through our polytech since that tragic day.’’

The commissioner of the inquiry Judge Graeme Noble said in 1995 that the DoC platform was not properly built.

He said in his report that the root causes of the collapse lay in a combined ``systemic failure’’ against the background of an under-funded and under-resourced department.


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