Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Pike River widow: What about the promises?

Kim Sims says she and her children Corbin and Mea are desperate to have the body of husband Blair returned. Photo / Stewart Nimmo
Kim Sims says she and her children Corbin and Mea are desperate to have the body of husband Blair returned. Photo / Stewart Nimmo

An angry widow has demanded the Prime Minister look her children in the eye and tell them why their father's body may never be recovered.

Kim Sims' husband, Blair, was killed in the Pike River mine explosion. One-and-a-half years after the tragedy on the West Coast, the bodies of Mr Sims and 28 other men remain inside the mine.

After the news that there had been several explosions and the men would not have survived, Prime Minister John Key told the miners' families recovering the bodies would remain "an absolute priority".

He later promised to do "everything we practically could to get the bodies of the victims out".

But any hope those promises brought the families was shattered this week when the new owners of Pike River announced a body recovery would go ahead only if it was "safe, technically feasible and financially credible".

Company officials told the families there was only a 5 or 10 per cent likelihood of a successful recovery - and any operation could be years away.

The news almost destroyed Mrs Sims, who has not spoken publicly about the tragedy until now.

Crying and audibly angry, she said new mine owners Solid Energy and the Government were trying to dodge their responsibilities to the families.

"They can't just sweep this under the carpet. John Key made all these promises to us at the start. If this is the way it's going to be, I want him to come down here and say it to my kids personally - he can explain it to them," she told the Weekend Herald.

"I want him to look in their eyes and tell them they are not going to get their father out ... This is a massacre on a huge scale and nothing's been done."

She said having her husband's body recovered would bring significant closure and comfort to her and their children, Corbin, 10, and 3-year-old Mea. It would allow them to grieve properly, say goodbye and end the worst chapter of the tragedy.

"I want them to back their s*** up. I want them to come down here and spend a week in my shoes.

"Not a quick flight down to say a little speech - I want them to see how we cope from day to day. For them to understand the pain and everything we go through. And then they might understand why we are the way we are - angry.

"I've got two children to bring up on my own. All I want is my husband back. They took my life away - everything I had. And it's not good enough. They cannot just do this to people.

"My anger levels were at 50, and now they're at 110 per cent. I'm beyond pissed off. My son is 10 years old and he was Blair's best friend. I don't even know how I'm going to tell him."

The family suffered through yet another painful day last month - what should have been Mr Sims' 30th birthday on April 29.

"We took the kids up to the mine. We got a birthday cake and just sat there. That's all we could do. You can't touch anything, you can't see anything.

"I'm heartbroken. It's been two years of ongoing torture. People don't have to see what we go through on a daily basis. When the media and the flashing lights go away we're still here wondering day in and day out ... it's not fair.

"It's a struggle. I can't describe it. I can't even sleep with the light off."

Mrs Sims said it was time for action - and she was determined to get her man out of the mine.

"It would mean everything to have my husband back. I'll get him out of that mine - I honestly don't care what it takes now. I'm ready to riot. They are not doing enough. It's not just about the 29 families any more, it's about New Zealand.

"Enough is enough, someone needs to stand up - now's the time. I've had it. Being nice has got us nowhere.

"Sort it out, if not we're going to go to extreme lengths to make it happen."

She believed Mr Key and other officials, including the police, who vowed to keep going until the miners were recovered had let the families down. And, she said, the unkept promises felt like lies.

"Everyone needs to start getting angry. This whole country needs to stand up. We're supposed to be New Zealanders, but no one's got a spine, no one's doing a ... thing about it. It's bull****."

Mr Key was not available last night, but a spokeswoman from his office provided a short statement.

"We welcome the announcement by Solid Energy and the receivers of the conditional sale of the Pike River mine. The Government's expectations around the recovery of the 29 miners remain the same.

"Solid Energy is expected to take all reasonable steps to recover the men in the Pike River mine, along with any commercial mining there in the future, as long as that recovery operation is safe, financially credible and technically feasible."

- NZ Herald

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