Families fell to the floor when told of New Zealand miners’ death

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

WELLINGTON - Families of the 29 New Zealand coal miners, who reportedly died in the second blast in the Pike River mine Wednesday, “fell to the floor screaming and were in absolute despair” when they heard the news.

Tony Kokshoorn, mayor of Grey district, broke down into tears after leaving a press briefing held to announce the blast, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Police confirmed in the briefing there was an explosion at the West Coast mine at 2.37 p.m. and they believe there was no chance any of the miners survived.

Kokshoorn, who described it as the “darkest day” for the West Coast, said the miners’ families were angry and distraught at the news.

“The families and communities of the dead miners have been changed forever by today’s catastrophic blast. This has got to be the darkest day for me. For Greymouth, for everywhere, this is the darkest day,” he said. “Things are never going to be the same.”

The families were hoping that the miners would be rescued after camera-mounted robots entered the mine early Wednesday.

“They were screaming at them. It was absolute despair. When the news came, everyone just cracked up. People were openly weeping everywhere,” Kokshoorn said, adding that many of them fell to the floor screaming.

Police Superintendent Gary Knowles, who headed the rescue operation, made the announcement to the media.

“Unfortunately, I have to inform the public of New Zealand at 2.37 p.m. today there was another massive explosion underground and based on that explosion no one would have survived,” Knowles said.

“I was at the mine myself when it actually occurred and the blast was prolific, just as severe as the first blast,” he said.

Though Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall said it was still unsafe for a recovery team to enter the mine, he still wants them back.

“Their families want them back. We want our boys back. We want them out,” he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key would travel to West Coast Thursday in the hope he can meet the families and offer his condolences, while Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee said there would be inquiries into what happened at the mine.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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