After 20 years, the emotions of the Cave Creek disaster are still raw, but family members of the 14 young people who died when a viewing platform plunged into a chasm near Punakaiki marked the anniversary today by acknowledging that they were ready to move on.

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Cave Creek disaster: Mum reflects on son's death 20 years ago

A service was held at the Tai Poutini Polytechnic Greymouth campus, culminating in wreath laying at a memorial garden dedicated to the 13 outdoor education students and Department of Conservation officer who died in the April 28, 1995 disaster. A Commission of Inquiry later attributed the disaster to systemic failure in DOC, which led to a poorly constructed viewing platform.

Polytechnic managers from 1995 stood alongside current students, family members and officials.

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Family members were given a chance to address the gathering, and spoke with wavering voices.

Fleur Pawsey, whose brother Kit died at Cave Creek, said she used to count the number of bolts at each DOC sign.

"If those bolts were there I would still have a big brother and life would be very different. If there was anything I could do in this world it would be to reverse what happened that day," Ms Pawsey said.

She now realised that the gift her brother had given her was a safer outdoors.

"I like to think that is a memorial to my brother."

Rod Davis, father of Jody Davis, told the crowd he was "still Jody's dad".

"The hardest thing was to move through the anger," Mr Davis said.

He recalled seeing Sam Lucas, who survived the fall, on television and what he had said.

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"If you don't move on it does mess you up, it messes you up something terrible ... It has taken me a long time to move on but I have a sense that finally has happened to me."

Melanie Swallow read a poem and spoke about her "friend and sister in life," De-Anne Reid.

"Twenty years have passed, 20 of each season, time does not repair the heart, nor bring the mind to reason."

-Greymouth Star