TVNZ deletes Pike River Mine body photo

Photo/ Mark Mitchell
Photo/ Mark Mitchell

TVNZ will delete a photo that depicts a body in the Pike River Mine and is sorry to have upset some families by asking if they could make it public.

TVNZ received a copy of the photo, which shows a body lying on the floor of the mine, on Wednesday - the day after the third anniversary of the disaster in which 29 workers died.

During Wednesday night's broadcast, One News said it would not show the photo out of respect for the families of the men, but families' lawyer Colin Smith said the families had been given until 4pm on Thursday to say whether or not they agreed to releasing it publicly.

"I'm very concerned for the family members who don't want the images released. The timing was bloody terrible. They are dealing with the third anniversary and this brought all the trauma back. Some families are in shock - it's really disappointing," Mr Smith said.

Some families saw the disturbing photograph for the first time during the Royal Commission of Inquiry in Greymouth earlier this year.

Mr Smith said while some families had indicated they were agreeable to releasing the image, at least one family had strongly disagreed.

"It is clear that some families do not want the picture released and we have always said that each family will respect the others' wishes. That being the response from the families, we will be making a clear request that the photo never be released," he said.

"There are some families who think that the release of the image would help the cause in terms of the recovery, but that is not an option any more as others are against it being in the public arena."

He said they were "very, very disappointed" that the image had been leaked in the first place, and he would be more disappointed if the media did not respect the wish of the families.

Mr Smith said he did not believe the confidential information leaked to the media had come from family members, as they would not have had access to it.

"The lawyers have that information."

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said that due to the location of the body in the mine, it could be narrowed down as to who was in the image and therefore it should not be published.

"The media and the public need to show dignity and respect in regards to this matter, and no one should speculate as to who it could be."

One News editor of daily content Graeme Muir said footage was usually kept regardless of whether it would ever be run, but an exception was made for the photo.

"We don't feel there will ever be public interest in showing this image."

Mr Muir said he was sorry if families were upset by being asked about the photo.

When the broadcaster was supplied with the image, they were reluctant to make a decision before speaking with the families.

"We thought we would have to be really careful before we put this out there," he said.

Mr Muir said they knew some families wanted the photo to be made public because it showed that the bodies were there to be brought home.

He said they had never imposed a deadline on the families for an answer.

"We never set out to publish or play that photo the next day at all, it was always 'let's see what the families say'.

"And if the families weren't unanimous, the story stopped there."

- Greymouth Star and APNZ

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