Families make Christmas visit to mine where 29 men died

Friday, December 24, 2010

WELLINGTON - About 60 family members of the 29 men who died last month in a New Zealand coal mine explosion made an emotional Christmas Day visit to the site where the bodies remain entombed.

Although the Pike River mine remains hazardous, police ferried the relatives in minibuses close to the entrance for a short memorial service, news reports said.

Laurie Drew, father of 21-year-old Zen Drew, who died, told Radio New Zealand before leaving that it would be good to have some peace in the bush surrounding the mine and be closer to his son.

Bernie Monk, father of victim Michael, said: “My son’s up there. What kind of Christmas are we going to have without one of our own? We were so close. We’re just heartbroken, absolutely heartbroken.”

Local mayor Tony Kokshoorn told the New Zealand Herald that the relatives were doing exactly what other New Zealand families were doing.

“It’s just what you do with your family on Christmas - you get together,” he said. “They just want to be close to their families.”

The mine on the west coast of the South Island remains too dangerous for recovery teams to enter, and the families have been warned it could be months before the bodies are retrieved and returned to for family funeral rites.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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