No charges will be laid against the organisers of a car festival that left Chaise Bouchere with horrific burns to his face and limbs, after the Northern Territory safety watchdog decided that funding future safety initiatives would be more beneficial.
- Spectators were burned during the Red CentreNATS car festival in Alice Springs in 2017
- NT WorkSafe will not lay charges against the organisers
- Instead two companies will spend $1.2 million on safety initiatives
At Alice Springs’ Red CentreNATS in September 2017, Mr Bouchere, his younger sister and 10-year-old brother were among 14 spectators injured after fuel from a competition car ignited and shot flames exceeding 400 degrees Celsius over onlookers.
His mother Karina Tiedeman — who was one of the first people on the scene she described as a “war zone” — has been battling ever since.
“I thought they would be safe in a designated viewing area, instead they were burnt by a fuel explosion,” Ms Tiedeman said.
“It’s heartbreaking to watch them struggle, not being able to go out in the sun, when they knock their scarring, the onset of nausea.
“It’s changed our whole life as a family.”
Mr Bouchere, then 21, suffered burns to 70 per cent of his face, legs and arms.
Both he and his sister had to be airlifted to Adelaide Hospital, while his 10-year-old brother Trae suffered nightmares after seeing his siblings burned.
“We’re just hoping that his skin will just mesh itself together over time,” Ms Tiedeman said.
Despite the horrific injuries, the Territory Government’s work safety watchdog, NT Worksafe, decided not to lay charges against the event organisers.
Instead Worksafe has accepted enforceable undertakings from the two organisers — private company Car Festivals Pty Ltd, and the Government-owned NT Major Events — which will see them spend $1.2 million on safety initiatives.
“These are legally binding commitments,” said Chris Wicks, director of regulatory reform at NT WorkSafe.
“There was an overwhelming public benefit in going to an enforceable undertaking rather than going to prosecution in court.”
As a result of the incident there are now national guidelines for burnouts.
‘A huge conflict on interest’
For the mother of three children who were badly burned, the safety improvements aren’t enough.
She wants the organisers charged and says the Worksafe investigation of NT Major Events is not independent.
“How can one government department be trusted to investigate another?” Ms Tiedeman said.
“There’s a huge conflict of interest there as far as I can see.”
NT Worksafe says its report on the explosion will not be made public.