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Former CEO's condolences ring hollow for Pike families

Published: 6:31PM Monday May 07, 2012 Source: ONE News

Families of the 29 men who died in the Pike River Mine say the former CEO's condolences, 18 months on, is a case of too little, too late.

Gordon Ward left the company and the country shortly before the fatal explosions, and refused to give any evidence to the Royal Commission of Inquiry, even in writing. As he was overseas, the commission was unable to compel him to give evidence.

TV ONE's Sunday programme tracked Ward down to a rented $1.2 million home in Australia's Gold Coast, where he finally broke his silence.

"I've already expressed my deepest condolences to the families and I think it's an awful tradgedy and nobody is unaffected by it," he told the programme's cameras.

This is the first time the families have heard from Ward, and for many his words ring a little hollow.

"It's too late to start apologising now. He (Ward) should have been back right from the word go, helping us, getting our guys out of the mine, and he's just left us," grieving father Bernie Monk told ONE News tonight.

"I really feel quite terrible that Gordon Ward didn't step up to the plate, didn't come back, didn't answer the hard questions and didn't be honest and open like others have tried to be," said another grieving father Neville Rockhouse.

The same day Sunday found Ward, his family was finalising the purchase of a $2 million supermarket business only a few kilometres away from their Gold Coast home.

After evading the Sunday cameras for a while, Ward finally said that he has answered questions from the Department of Labour and police.

"First thing is that I have co-operated fully with the Department of Labour and the police and all their inquiries they have done to date."

"I have been interviewed by them and they have not pressed any charges against me," he said.

Over 14 years Ward helped design and develop the Pike River Mine, which began production early in 2008.

Ward left his position as CEO at Pike River just six weeks before the explosion that trapped and killed 29 men in November 2010.

The Commission's finding into what happened at the mine is due in September.