Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Pike River: Miners accessed self-rescue kits

Photo / File
Photo / File

Photographs showing two bodies deep in the Pike River mine highlights the victims' families' desire to recover their loved ones' bodies, says families' spokesman Bernie Monk.

Media reports today that suggested the photographs were new proof that at least some Pike River miners survived the first explosion and had opened self-rescue kits was refuted by counsel for the Pike River Families Group, Nicholas Davidson QC.

Mr Davidson says that referred to evidence which had been "fully developed" in the Royal Commission hearings over many months, and that "it is up to the Royal Commission to address these issues."

While the families have viewed the images, the Royal Commission has ordered that they be suppressed from publication.

But Mr Monk, whose 23-year-old son Michael died in the November 19, 2010 disaster, wants the Royal Commission of Inquiry to release the photos to the public, to help gain further support for recovery.

"It means that there are people to go down for," he says.

"The photos show a man slumped near the self-rescue kits, in a sitting position. You can see his clothing and boots. The other guy is covered by coal dust.

"The family members are pretty sure who they are and we have asked the commission to release these photos but they are reluctant to do so. But in the future we will look to doing something along those lines.

"These photos of the two guys is evidence of the right that the families have to getting those guys back."

The families have become increasingly angered by the lack of progress in recovering the bodies.

Some families are even debating launching their own private recovering missions.

They have already been forced to pay for independent reports to find alternative methods of recovering the remains of the 29 miners who died in explosions 15 months ago.

A review, commissioned by the families, has given a three-year timeframe for reaching the dead men.

Last week, the families wrote to Prime Minister John Key, via National's West Coast-based list MP Chris Auchinvole, pleading to speed up the recovery process.

Mr Monk declined to elaborate on the contents of the letter until he had heard back from Mr Key.

"All we want is honesty, and verbal contact, but we seem to be like lepers," he said.

"If they think we're going away, well ... it's just not going to happen.

"All we want is our guys back, and we don't think that is asking too much."

- APNZ

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