Pike River: No point in blame, says young miner's partner

By Jarrod Booker

Rachelle Weaver with daughter Erika, whose father Josh Ufer was one of the victims of the Pike River Coal mine tragedy. Photo / Simon Baker
Rachelle Weaver with daughter Erika, whose father Josh Ufer was one of the victims of the Pike River Coal mine tragedy. Photo / Simon Baker

Little Erika Millicent Ufer is oblivious to the gravity of the occasion when she turns up each day at the Greymouth courthouse.

Not even two months old, she cannot comprehend that her mother is taking her along to be part of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the tragic deaths of 29 men, including the father she will never get to meet.

Josh Ufer, 25, was one of 29 workers who died in explosions at the Pike River mine last November. His partner, Rachelle Weaver, gave birth to their daughter in May.

Being at the inquiry as often as she can is important for Ms Weaver.

"For me, to come out of the commission I would like to see improved health and safety standards ... or similarities between here and Australia maybe," she told the Herald.

"There's no point in pointing fingers [of blame] at anyone now, is there? What's done is done. And we can only go forward from here."

Mr Ufer, an Australian who also worked in mines across the Tasman, would discuss the difference in safety standards with colleagues, but not with Ms Weaver. "Obviously he didn't want to scare me."

Ms Weaver said she still "had her moments" following Mr Ufer's death.

"Usually at night. I live with a flatmate, so she gets a bit of stick every so often. She's pretty handy as well when you're sick of carrying Erika around, trying to burp her."

When Ms Weaver looks at Erika, she often sees Mr Ufer. "She's got this crazy look on her face sometimes. She looks exactly like him."

When Erika is old enough, she will be able to learn about her father through a collection Ms Weaver has put together.

"I've got lots of things that I have kept that were his - in a box. And I have kept a diary of things that have happened since [November] and stuff that I remember prior. So she will have that, and going over to visit his family in Australia."

Ms Weaver is bracing herself for the inquiry to run into next year.

"I said to my mum, the commission is actually going to go on longer than my relationship with Josh. It will be good to have it over and done with. And have the result ... hopefully it's a good result."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 19 Sep 2014 22:36:19 Processing Time: 999ms