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KiwiRail forced to pay compensation to contractor after safety failings left him seriously disabled

 from: http://m.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11514666

Rob Kidd

Rob Kidd is a NZME. News Service court reporter based in Auckland.

 

KiwiRail to pay $110,000 over work accident

File photo / Wairarapa Times-Age

By Rob Kidd

KiwiRail has been ordered to pay $110,000 to the family of man who can no longer eat, speak or walk after a horrific accident.

It is thought to be one of the highest emotional harm payments awarded in this country.

Paul Anderson was working on a digger on the Raurimu Spiral line as a Downer contractor in June last year when a train ploughed into him, causing him severe traumatic brain injury, as well as chest and lung trauma.

He was choppered from the central North Island site to Waikato Hospital where neurologists said his injuries were some of the worst they had ever seen.

Mr Anderson was put in an induced coma for the next three weeks and eventually transported to a specialist facility in Porirua where he has since been receiving 24-hour care.

His 34-year-old partner Vashti Faulkner had her victim impact statement read in Auckland District Court this afternoon where she spoke of the "cruel and unfair" fate for her and the couple's two daughters, aged 6 and 13.

 

Doctors had told them Mr Anderson was unlikely to remain alive for another year.

She described the moment she first saw him in hospital after the incident.

"He was unrecognisable," Ms Faulkner said.

"Tubes going into his nose, mouth, arms and chest ... eyes huge and black, swollen shut."

Despite her partner needing around-the-clock support, she wanted him back at the family's Foxton home."

He had everything taken from him. Surely a basic human right is to be home with his family," she said.

The court heard today that the KiwiRail crew working on June 17, 2014, had allowed one train to pass through their work site without incident that day.

However, it appears a "thumbs up" signal saw Mr Anderson return to the track, when it was intended to mean another train was on its way.

Because he was working around a corner, he was not seen until it was too late.

"A thumbs up does not seem like a good communication system," Judge Philippa Cunningham said.

The judge also highlighted the fact there was not a registered rail protection officer on-site that day.

KiwiRail lawyer Richard McIlraith said the company's chief executive Peter Reidy immediately suspended any work on the lines for 48 hours until it could be determined what had gone wrong.

Eventually a new scheme was implemented, which now sees staff mandatorily stay put in a safe zone until a train passes.

KiwiRail group general manager Todd Moyle offered his apologies to Mr Anderson's family.

"They live every day with the consequences of this accident and while we make reparations willingly, we understand that no amount of money can change what happened," he said.

"The safety of everyone who works for us, and who travels with us is our primary concern, and we continue to work to prevent an accident like this from happening again."

KiwiRail originally offered Ms Faulkner $100,000 at a restorative justice session but she denied the offer and left the decision for the court.

Judge Cunningham said the offer was both "appropriate and generous" but because of ongoing travel costs for the family added $10,000.

Mr Anderson's partner and children received 80 per cent of the sum, while his Kaitaia-based parents were apportioned 20 per cent.

"I can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst," Ms Faulkner said.

"Paul was an amazing man, father, partner and friend. Though he did not die that day, the man I knew is gone forever."

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