Pike River survivor in new near miss

By Paul Harper

Daniel Rockhouse, escaped from the Pike River mine explosion, has had another near miss in Australia. Photo / supplied
Daniel Rockhouse, escaped from the Pike River mine explosion, has had another near miss in Australia. Photo / supplied

One of two men to survive the Pike River mine disaster has narrowly escaped a cave-in at a mine in Australia.

Daniel Rockhouse, 24, lost his brother Ben in the November 19 mine blast, which took the lives of 29 men.

Despite the disaster, Mr Rockhouse relocated to Queensland so he could continue mining.

Mr Rockhouse told Radio New Zealand this morning he was working about 1km underground in the North Goonyella coal mine near Mackay in Queensland when he heard the roof beginning to crack.

"So I got the hell out of there, and I drove up the main drive towards the portal and got about 300-400 metres away and the whole bloody roof caved in. So yeah, I'm very lucky.

"All the lights went out, I got a bit of a fright, a bit of flashback a little bit."

Mr Rockhouse was not aware at the time there had been a rock fall.

"I didn't think I might die because I didn't know what had happened. I didn't know the roof had caved in. I was far enough away that I couldn't see, but I heard it and I felt it."

Later he found out there had been a cave-in where he had been.

"I found out where it was and it was exactly where I had been sitting. I just got a bit of a fright that I had walked away from yet another very close call."

Mr Rockhouse acknowledged that if he had remained where he was he would have died.

"It was quite a significant fall, it was quite a lot of debris that fell, we're talking probably a couple of hundred tonnes of material, rock, and coal and probably steel ... if that directly fell on top of you, you would not have survived."

"I rang my wife first and then my mum and dad - they were very upset but they were very happy I was ok.

"It was just luck, ay, it could have been different if I were in earlier."

Mr Rockhouse said the mine had a good safety record, but rockfalls "happen in mines all the time but you don't hear about it".

"I've got nine lives - I've used three or four of them with Pike and probably another couple this time. I'm lucky."

In June, Mr Rockhouse spoke to the Herald about his decision to relocate to Australia to continue mining.

"I had to go back underground for myself. Just to prove to myself that I could still do it," he told the Herald.

"It's conquering the demons ... facing your fears. And I like doing it. I like going underground, as strange as that may sound.

"Before the blast, I enjoyed the job. Whether I continue being a miner forever - that's another question."

He told Radio New Zealand he often thought about Pike when he was down the North Goonyella mine.

"It was scary for my, but in some stage it was very good, because I was getting back to it, it just felt I was getting back to work and it was keeping my mind busy.

"Down there it looks like just Pike, it just looks like a normal coal mine so I'm going to think about things while I'm down there.

Mr Rockhouse said he has not yet decided whether to give up mining for good.

"I don't know, that's the big question, at this stage yes, I will. But I haven't fully talked to my wife properly.

"She thinks this is enough, I think, she's had enough of this heartache. At the end of the day, this is what I like doing."

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