A Kiwi tunneller killed in a workplace accident on one of Sydney's biggest motorway projects died days before the anniversary of his eldest son's death, which occurred as they worked together in a mine 13 years ago.

Jim Adams died on May 23 after he was struck by part of a pressurised pipe, which detached during tunnel work at the NorthConnex project in Sydney's north-west.

The 65-year-old grandfather-of-six was conscious and talking immediately after the incident, but succumbed to his injuries - believed to be internal - in hospital, his son, Dallas Adams, told the Herald.

Adams, who was born in Mangakino and grew up in several Central North Island towns, came from a family of underground workers, starting with his own father.

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He had worked as a tunneller and gold and coal miner throughout New Zealand and Australia since the age of 18.

This included the construction of the Rangipo Dam and a decade-long stint on the Clyde Dam project - one of New Zealand's biggest engineering works - and major Sydney infrastructure projects, such as the Parramatta and North-West rail links.

He also spent a year working at the ill-fated Pike River Mine, and was part of the same crew that died in the mine disaster five weeks after Adams left, Dallas Adams said.

His dad wrote in a personal history about his mining career that he did not feel right while working at Pike River.

Kiwi Jim Adams worked in mining and tunneling for 47 years before his death while working on a major Sydney road project two weeks ago. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi Jim Adams worked in mining and tunneling for 47 years before his death while working on a major Sydney road project two weeks ago. Photo / Supplied

"[He wrote] 'the mine had a very strange feel about it. I never once felt comfortable'."

His father channelled his decades of experience into helping younger miners, especially after eldest son, James, was killed while they were working together, Dallas Adams said.

Thirty-two-year-old James died in a rock fall at Dartbrook Coal Mine in New South Wales on May 28 2004.

"After that ... Dad went sort of quiet. We weren't sure if he'd go back."

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But he did go back, and many were the better for it.

32-year-old James Adams died in a rock fall at Dartbrook Coal Mine in New South Wales on May 28 2004. Photo / Supplied
32-year-old James Adams died in a rock fall at Dartbrook Coal Mine in New South Wales on May 28 2004. Photo / Supplied

Such was his father's popularity that Dallas Adams booked the biggest church he could find in Sydney for his father's funeral - the 444-seat St Alban's in Rooty Hill - and yet mourners still spilled out the door and down the road.

In February 2015 Sydney Metro, Australia's biggest public transport development, marked Adams contribution in a Twitter post.

"Congratulations to Jim Adams, who is about to chalk up 45 years in tunnelling and mining across Australia and New Zealand," they wrote.

Congratulations to Jim Adams, who is about to chalk up 45 years in tunnelling and mining across Australia and New...

Posted by Sydney Metro on Wednesday, 25 February 2015

And at his funeral many spoke of the influence the man they affectionately called "Uncle" had on them, Dallas Adams said.

"After my brother's death dad just wanted to be a labourer and mentor. A lot of people I talked to said dad was like a kaumatua ... teaching them the old ways."

A former Pike River colleague emailed that Adams took him under his wing after other workers teased him for being small.

"[He said] dad took him aside and said 'follow me and I'll teach you everything you need to know'. Now this guy is a drilling blast supervisor at one of the biggest gold mines in West Africa."

The NorthConnex project was shut down indefinitely following Adams' death and two investigations are underway.

Dallas Adams is not sure if the project has re-opened, and while he will be following the investigations, he held no malice.

His main priority now was to look after his mum, Diane, and eventually return both his parents to be buried with their son in Taupo.

Although Adams had lived most of the last 25 years in Australia, he had a home in Waihi and planned to come home when he retired - something he talked about for 20 years, but always put off.

His dedication was "beyond passion", Dallas Adams said.

"He'd come in an hour early and then he'd always make sure everything was tidy and ready to go for the next day at the end ... he just had so much respect for the job.

"That's why he was still there doing what he loved."