Beach tour company found guilty after tourist dies while sand boarding

The sand dunes at Te Paki Stream, at the top of Ninety Mile Beach, are well-known for boogie-boarding down. (File photo)

Gerard Hindmarsh/Stuff

The sand dunes at Te Paki Stream, at the top of Ninety Mile Beach, are well-known for boogie-boarding down. (File photo)

A Northland beach tour company has been found guilty of failing to prevent death or serious injury, after one of its tourists died after boogie boarding down a sand dune.

Jin Chang Oh​, 68, from South Korea died in February 2019 at Te Paki Sand Dunes in the Far North.

He and his family were on a guided tour with Sand Safaris, which included the option of riding down the dunes while lying on a boogie board.

Oh rode down the sand dune, through an over-run area at the bottom of the dune and into the path of another tour bus, also operated by Sand Safaris.

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He suffered fatal head injuries in front of his family.

WorkSafe investigated the death and later charged Sand Safaris under the Health and Safety at Work Act, 2015, for failing in its duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, people were not exposed to the risk of serious injury or death from its business.

The case was brought before the Kaitāia District Court in December 2022, with closing submissions received in writing in January.

Judge Philip Rzepecky​ released his reserved decision late last week, finding Sand Safaris guilty of the charge.

WorkSafe argued Sand Safaris knew Te Paki Sand Dunes ended in what was effectively a road and should’ve managed the traffic risk with signs, cordons, a person at the bottom of the sand dune or using a different sand dune.

The risk was highlighted in 2016 when a boy, who was sand boarding with another company, also ran into a vehicle at the bottom of the dune, suffering serious injuries.


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Sand Safaris, owned by the Petricevich family, argued the risk was managed by the bus driver watching for approaching vehicles at the top of the sand dunes.

Oh went down the dune out of turn and failed to heed instructions for slowing down, the company argued.

But Judge Rzepecky found Oh was not to blame “at all” for what happened to him.

The judge in his ruling said Sand Safaris could’ve implemented an effective traffic management system to help prevent Oh’s death.

“There was a clearly identifiable hazard which Sand Safaris had a duty to eliminate or significantly minimise using reasonably practicable steps.

“Failure to take these steps significantly contributed to the cause of Mr Oh’s death.”

Sand Safaris is due to appear in court again on June 2, when a sentencing date will be set.

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