Company sued against a crane operator for the death of a longshoreman

Tahiti, June 7, 2022 – The involuntary manslaughter trial of a crane operator, as well as company directors Sat Nui and JA Cowan, prosecuted following the death of a 33-year-old longshoreman on July 3, 2012 in port of Papeete, is open on Tuesday. While the victim was crushed by a container during a nighttime maneuver, the public prosecutor demanded six months in prison against the crane operator and fines of three million XPF against Sat Nui and JA Cowan. June 21 decision.

Nearly ten years after the death, on 3 July 2012, of a 33-year-old longshoreman who had been fatally run over by a container in the port of Papeete, the involuntary manslaughter trial of a crane operator, as well as construction companies O aconage Sat Nui and JA Cowan, finally opened Tuesday morning before the criminal court.

This dramatic accident took place on July 3, 2012 in the early evening. The victim, a worker at the JA Cowan company, was receiving a container on a boat. This container was immediately attached to the vessel’s dock but the crane operator, not realizing that it was still hooked to the crane, lifted it. Given the power of the machine, the container was pulled out of the ground and thrown over the victim who, as specified by the president of the court, was “literally crushed”. The crane in question belonged to the company Sat Nui which had leased it from the company JA Cowan and placed its personnel there. It should be noted that this tragic event occurred when another longshoreman, victim of a six-meter fall, had already lost his life two months earlier. During the investigation of the July 3 death, the labor inspectorate noted that Sat Nui and JA Cowan did not comply with the rules, namely that they had not proceeded with the installation of a prevention and safety plan.

marital problems

After several layoffs, the trial of the crane operator who carried out the fatal maneuver, as well as the companies JA Cowan and Sat Nui – represented by their leaders, Quito Braun-Ortega and Éric Malmezac – was held for long hours on Tuesday. Fainted at the mention of the facts, the crane operator indicated that he had “I do not see anything” and that he had not noticed that the container had not been properly unhooked from the crane. While witnesses noted that on the day of the events, this crane operator looked “worried”, the man confirmed in the deposition that he was distracted by marital issues, as his girlfriend wanted to leave him.

“Sad to say this, but that man shouldn’t be there” commented Éric Malmezac during his hearing before stating that “the victim should not have reached the deck before the load was finally placed.” To the head of JA Cowan, Quito Braun Ortega, “the speed of the crane lifting created the drama”. “There is no mechanical failure, but gross negligence” concluded the entrepreneur for whom this “the catastrophe could have been avoided”.

According to attorneys for the civil parties, Mes Merceron and Gaultier, “this accident should never have happened, mainly because the victim was not at all used to stevedoring work, as he worked mainly in the moving activities of the JA Cowan company”.

Prison and fines

During its requests, the Public Prosecutor’s Office claimed that the crane operator had “your tasks in a completely distracted way” because he was “Busy with his marital problems”. Six months in prison and a fine of 700,000 XPF were demanded against the defendant. Regarding the companies Sat Nui and JA Cowan, the representative of the Public Ministry regretted that the “two companies work together without any consultation, despite different organizations”. Fines of three million XPF were requested against the two companies and two other fines of 500,000 XPF were also requested against Quito Braun Ortega and Éric Malmezac.

In defense of Éric Malmezac and the company Sat Nui, Mes Chicheportiche and Henriot pleaded for release, stating that, at the time, Éric Malmezac was not “policeman” of the company while its managing director was “responsible for training security personnel”. To JA Cowan’s attorney, Me Algan, the “relaxation is essential” since the two companies were not, legally speaking, in a situation of “coactivity” and therefore not subject to the development of a common security plan. Finally, in defense of the crane operator, Me Nougaro stated that he was not “audible” that all responsibilities “put on shoulders” of your client. The court will render its decision on June 21.

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