Dive school, dive manager face sentence for 2014 death of Malaysian student

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The family of a trainee commercial diver who died near Huntly two years ago will have to wait a few more weeks before the court grants the closure they’re hoping for.

Luqmanulhakim Bin Moien, 24, of Jahore in Malaysia, drowned during an assessment dive on Lake Puketirini on April 28, 2014.

He was one of a group of Malaysian students to come to the New Zealand School of Outdoor Studies Limited (NZSOS), trading as NZ School of Commercial Diver Training.

NZSOS and the dive supervisor, Tony Anaru Te Ripo appeared for sentencing in the Hamilton District Court on Monday, each facing a charge of breaching health and safety in employment.

Both had pleaded guilty.

Two of Bin Moien’s brothers travelled from Malaysia for the sentencing but Judge Simon Menzies reserved his decision as the court ran out of time.

On the day of the dive, Bin Moien had needed help back to shore after getting cramp during a 200m swimming test.

The other seven Malaysian students also failed, something put down to cold water conditions.

They donned wetsuits for the dive test but Bin Moien became separated from the group. He was seen above water, in distress, and without his dive mask and regulator on.

He went under and was found on the lake floor. He could not be revived.

Bin Moien’s failure of the swim test, the decision to let him continue, and the instructors’ response were central points discussed in court.

Crown prosecutor Ross Douch said Te Ripo, as dive supervisor on the day, was obliged to ensure safety but there was also a responsibility on the dive school.

Expert evidence showed swimming ability should have been fully assessed before any activities that relied on it, he said.

The instructor in the water was also monitoring two other students and therefore not free to undertake a rescue, Douch said.

Douch suggested reparation in the realm of $125,000 from the school, and a fine.

The school would also meet the family’s costs incurred after Bin Moien’s death.

Two of his brothers were in court and the eldest, Mohd Ikrar Bin Moien, said they were frustrated about not knowing why their brother died.

He said the dive school didn’t make contact until after his father, a commercial diver himself, died less than three months later.

They eventually met with someone from the dive school the week of the sentencing, he said.

The dive school accepted it hadn’t taken all practicable steps to ensure Bin Moien’s health and safety but defence counsel Philippa Fee said there were extenuating factors.

Bin Moien died during an assessment before the start of the commercial diving course.

All students had their recreational diving certificate so should have had the required skills, she said.

In hindsight, extra measures should have been put in place after the swimming failures.

Since Bin Moien’s death, changes had been made to courses in New Zealand and Australia, she said.

The school was happy to pay the family’s expenses and had made several attempts to contact them, Fee said.

She suggested a starting point of $80,000 for reparation.

Dive supervisor Te Ripo was represented by legal counsel Fletcher Pilditch, who said Te Ripo shouldn’t take all the blame.

“His culpability rests in the decision that he made. But the system should never have allowed him or enabled him to make that decision.”

Te Ripo would have difficulty paying reparation. It was still uncertain whether he could keep his diving certifications.

Menzies reserved his decision but hoped to release it before March 3, 2016.

Speaking outside court, Bin Moien’s brothers Mohd Ikrar and Masri said they had hoped to hear the final outcome.

They wanted their brother’s name cleared and were focused on moving forward.

 

 

 

 

 

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