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Plumber and gasfitter sentenced after 12-year-old boy died in shower from carbon monoxide poisoning in Haast

A Haast plumbing business and gasfitter were both sentenced today after a 12-year-old boy died in his family's holiday home shower from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2018.

Shower head file image. Source: istock.com

The gas water heater used to supply the shower should never have been installed inside the bathroom, WorkSafe said in a statement today.

The boy died as a result of gas from the water heater building up in the small unventilated bathroom unit.

Central Plumbing Limited and Michael James Cartwright were sentenced in the Dunedin District Court today after being charged under the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act 2006 in relation to the incident.

Michael James Cartwright is a director of the business and a certifying gasfitter.

WorkSafe says that in 2016 the victim’s family engaged Central Plumbing Limited to install a gas water heater in a transportable bathroom unit. The bathroom unit was later moved to their holiday home in Haast on the West Coast.

“Despite the gas water heater clearly stating it could not be installed in a bathroom, it was installed and certified. The need for adequate ventilation was not discussed with the family,” said WorkSafe’s head of high hazards, energy and public safety, Darren Handforth.

According to WorkSafe, "the family used the heater for some time, until it was damaged when the surrounding pipework froze in the winter of 2017. In September 2018, a family member replaced the heater with a new one, of the same model, and in the same place.

"A WorkSafe investigation found the replacement water heater was not faulty, and the installation of a replacement unit did not materially alter the danger."

Handforth believes the water heater should never have been installed as it was not safe to do so.

“These water heaters should only be installed in spaces which meet size and ventilation requirements.

“To make matters worse, Mr Cartwright certified the 2016 installation although he had not been on that part of the site during the installation and did not inspect it or perform any tests. He did not inquire into the specifics of the work that the gasfitter had done and did not ask sufficient questions about what testing (if any) had been carried out.

“Members of the community who engage professional tradespeople to carry out gasfitting work should be able to trust the work will be done properly and will be safe for them and their families to use.

“Tragically, in this case this trust was broken and a family now has to mourn the loss of a loved one for the rest of their lives,” Handforth says.

Central Plumbing Limited was fined $104,500 and ordered to pay reparatations of $50,000 to the boy's family.

Michael James Cartwright was fined $19,250 and ordered to pay reparations of $20,000 to the boy's family.